Mentoring to Become a Self-Directed Learner

Mentoring to Become a Self-Directed Learner

Dionne Clabaugh, Nora Dominguez
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7661-8.ch008
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This chapter provides a mentoring roadmap for success in college life and when transitioning to the workplace. First-year students learn that a successful mentee is self-directed, knows what to look for in a mentor, uses skills to engage in effective mentoring, and recognizes there are various types of mentoring relationships. The authors describe what a first-year student should look for when seeking an effective mentor. Readers are shown the benefits for using a developmental mentoring network and for becoming self-directed learners and mentees. The chapter includes activities and exercises to develop critical skills in self-understanding, listening, help-seeking, problem solving, and goal setting to be applied in both academic and professional settings. When successful people receive an award or recognition, what they have in common is they did not make it alone – others guided and supported their learning, growth, and success.
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Theoretical Foundations Of Mentoring

The History of Mentoring

Many authors attribute the origins of mentoring to Homer’s tale, The Odyssey, in which Mentor, a trusted counselor and friend of the King, is assigned to provide education and guidance to Telemachus, the Prince, while his father leaves to fight in the Trojan War. For many centuries, mentoring was what many considered the formal education system for royalty. That mentoring evolved into the apprenticeship model in which the apprentice learns tasks, processes, and skills from the master, and the master imparts the purposes, values, and attitudes for better use of those skills.

Over time mentoring approaches (classical mentoring, apprenticeship, patronage, tutoring, and preceptorship) disappeared as a formal system for transmitting skills, culture, and values in preparation for adulthood. During the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, the apprenticeship model was replaced with specialized and standardized academic training. However, informal mentoring continues to be imbedded in different cultures, from the past to the present day (Dominguez, 2017).


Mentoring is first and foremost a relationship that implies a learning partnership. It develops through several stages of initiation, negotiation, cultivation, and ending the relationship. There are many definitions and forms of mentoring relationships. The most common structure involves a mentor (a person who has experience and skills and wants to develop these skills in other people), and their mentee (a person who wants to learn skills in a mentoring relationship). There are variations in the types of support and assistance, as well as different purposes and goals, given by the mentor. Further, various outcomes and benefits can be achieved, based on the mentee’s needs (Dominguez & Kochan, 2020).

The definition of mentoring tends to change and develop in new ways to suit the needs, values, goals, and developmental stage of the participants in the relationship. It also changes based on the context in which the relationship takes place. As such, a one-size-fits-all definition of mentoring will never apply to every person, dyad, group, or institution. Therefore, what really matters is having a fundamental understanding of what mentoring is and is not for the participants in the relationship (the mentor, the mentee, and the organization), and for clarifying the expectations of each one. Mentoring is a relationship in which the mentor and mentee are both invested in the mentee’s learning and growth, and they both benefit from the learning partnership.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Mindset: Being open to new ideas, believing new skills and strategies can be learned, embracing challenges, and being inspired by others’ success.

Mentoring: A relationship that is based on a learning partnership.

Self-Awareness: Being able to understand your feelings and desires, motivations, and concerns.

Efficacious: Believing in one’s own competence.

Reflective Listening: A technique that allows you to build trust and respect in your relationships.

Goal Setting: The intention to attain something you do not yet have and forming a plan to reach a goal.

Self-Determined: Using decision-making and intrinsic motivation to follow through on suggested actions to meet one’s goals.

Developmental Network: A group of mentors who are actively interested in advancing the Mentee’s skills and/or knowledge.

Mentee: A person who wants to learn and apply skills gained in a mentoring relationship.

Situational Mentor: Mentors who make adjustments in response to the mentees’ growth and changing needs.

Autonomous: Acting independently, with intention and volition.

Self-Directed Mentee: A mentee who welcomes and acts on their mentor’s guidance and participates in a developmental relationship with the mentor.

Self-Directed: Taking responsibility for initiating mentoring conversations and then takes action on the guidance and suggestions being offered.

Sponsors: People who provide high amounts of career support in the form of protection, exposure, and visibility.

Mentor: A person with high levels of skill and experience in psychosocial support, in careers and/or academics, who wants to develop these skills in other people.

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