Extended Summary of the Short Course

Mentoring Short Course 7 and 8 October 2019

The North of the Netherlands was for two days the center of the world for Evidence-based mentoring during the Mentoring Short Course 2019. American first class researchers prof. Jean Rhodes, prof. Timothy Cavell, prof. Renée Spencer and dr. Joan Becker shared their newest findings with an international audience of researchers and practitioners. Research and practice met and strengthened each other, framed by the colourful, modern environment of NHL Stenden University, which left a big impression on the international visitors from abroad. (“Are all your university buildings this beautiful?!”)

The global expansion of the mentor movement

Evidence based mentoring is anno 2019 research-wise still a mostly American oriented affair, considering the leading roles of researchers prof. Jean Rhodes of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, and those of her colleagues presenting the main keynotes of this short course. The audience was composed of a variety of nationalities though. Researchers and practitioners in the audience of mentoring organizations who lead workshops or poster presentations, came from all over the world. Not just from the European countries France, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Spain, Norway, Germany and Austria, but also from other places, like Israel, Singapore and even from Australia. This short course showed that the mentoring movement is expanding more and more over the world.

The agenda

The Short Course offered to the audience a general view of development in the mentoring field, addressing the research- as well as the practical side of mentoring within and outside of Europe. On the agenda were four main keynotes presented by the American guests: Professor Jean Rhodes, Professor Renee Spencer, dr. Joan Becker and Professor Timothy Cavell. There were also several workshops and poster presentations.

Keynote of prof. Rhodes: Mentoring works, but not always!

Professor Jean Rhodes kicked off the Short Course 2019 with an evaluation of the current state of evidence-based mentoring research and the persistence of disappointing effect outcomes. Her keynote was centered around the question of how we can improve these effect outcomes and what her approach means for the field, for research, as well as for practitioners in today’s mentoring programmess.
Right in the beginning of her opening speech prof. Rhodes confronted her audience with shocking news: “mentoring works, but not always “! Every person that is working in the field of mentoring can tell stories or knows examples of youth that bloomed because of a successful, durable and satisfactory relationship with a formal mentor. “Still, the results of these mentoring interventions show very little effect”. Prof. Rhodes calls this phenomenon “the mentoring paradox”. New data from a recent meta-analysis that compared - initially - 16000 mentoring relationships out of - eventually - 72 analyzed mentoring programmes in the United States between 1997 and 2017 (Stam, Rhodes, 2018) show that the effects are almost 0. Jean concluded that after 20 years we have not been able to increase size effects (of formal mentoring interventions : red.) “despite of the generous funding’s and investments of our volunteers in social and emotional capital ”… “How do we solve this problem? How do we get more out of all these volunteers… People that stepped forward to work with somebody, not a family member, to help somebody they do not know . Such a valuable resource?!”

The friendship model combined with goals

Prof. Rhodes is clear in her message that she holds the “friendship models”, accountable for the low effect sizes of the study. These models aim their legislative measures on the principle that the role model in the relationship mentor-mentee is enough to be effective . According to her, this principle is a myth . “A role model is not enough for youth to get better “. Although lesser applied to youth with economic disadvantaged backgrounds, (Raposa, Rhodes, et al 2018) we can conclude that most youth has quite a lot of role models in their lives. At school for instance, all kids have access to programs that contribute tot their positive development“. Most of them have natural mentors. Out of a total group of N=16000 of questioned youth in a study by Raposa (Raposa, 2018) answered 72% to have one or more natural mentors in their personal environment, like neighbors, family, teachers, coaches (Raposa, 2018). “They do not need another role model. Our traditional formal programs do not fit today’s youth anymore!” .

What does work!

According to Jean Rhodes:
- 1: Goals : Of course a good relationship between mentor and a young person is important “, but we need goals! Jean argues , “combined with a friendship relationship ”
Most mentoring relationships are based on having fun, instead of working on goals , was the outcome of a study among 30 formal mentoring programs (Jarjoura, 2018). This, in expense of more school based or cultural activities that were relevant for a future career (Jarjoura, 2018). “There is nothing wrong in having fun with your mentor, but parents expect something else. Their kids should get more than what they already get at school!”
- 2: New inter-relational models .
prof Rhodes: “natural mentoring reproduces inequality. Wealthy kids have better access than poor kids to sources of natural mentoring. ”We need natural mentors for all kids! Make them available by teaching youth a help seeking orientation (Schwartz, S. 2006). In a meta-analysis (Levy van Dam, 2018) 10% mentioned the teacher as the most important. Jean: “How do you use that natural mentor?” ..”We need programs that are more supporting than delivering, that teach youth to create new (networks of-) supportive relationships. The results of new approaches like YIM (Youth Initiated Mentoring) programs of my colleague Sarah Schwartz are particularly promising”.
- 3: Targeted programmes
Especially for youth at Risk (editor), “detect what is it that a young person needs and target that. Targeted programmes that are fitting the mentoring population…They work really well! They are not good for everybody, but they do have more effect! They work especially well with mentors that have sophisticated skills and are experienced in working with youth”. An example is the anti-bully program of prof. Cavell.
Prof. Rhodes: “Targeted mentoring programs can even serve as professional care alternatives for youth with specific risks!” Gert Jan Stam, Kupperschmidt et al (2018) studied the relation between risk factors of youth and the early termination of mentoring relationships among young people (N=1000) living in extremely stressful living circumstances. They found that extreme stress makes the mentoring relationship more difficult and the duration harder to sustain , especially for youth with severe health issues. But, when youth workers were experienced and skilled, their relationships lasted longer and were more effective. This effect was double compared to non-experienced youth workers . Their skills neutralized the risk factors, using methods quite similar to methods used in clinical settings derived from Behavioral Sciences.
“So”, prof. Rhodes argued, “when recruiting potential mentors, do not accept purely altruistic purposes, but if they have experience with kids.”


Jeans appeal for more experienced youth workers as mentors caused some confusion in the audience. Many of the short course participants support volunteer without professional skills and experience and who became mentor out of altruistic reasons. Should they all be discouraged in becoming a mentor? Should we sacrifice valuable work force in favor of higher evidence based effect sizes ? Or are there other ways to deal with the mentoring paradox? Frank van Hout, chairman during the two days, advised not to discuss whether we should stop mentoring, but discuss how we can bring the discussion further.
While Jeans keynote addressed how effect outcomes of mentoring programs can be increased, especially for higher risk youth, the keynotes of her colleagues were zooming into how research can improve the daily practice of mentoring.

Keynote prof. Renee Spencer: issues of social class influence early endings of M-Y-relationships

Renee Spencer addressed in her keynote group processes and social status that influence the social ecology of Mentor-Youth Relationships, what they mean for the mentoring relationships concerning youth and their parents with a poor family background. (Note: this is the “same” higher risk target group of youth that previous key note speaker Jean Rhodes had in mind in her presentation).
To analyze the influence of those relational and socio-cultural contexts, prof. Spencer used the Bronfenbrenner theory. This model (see picture) represents the environments in which a child grows up, as five ecological rings that each interact with a childs hidden qualities and influence his growth and development. Unlike the designer of the model, Bronfenbrenner, who put “ the child” in the inner ring, Renee has put “the mentor-youth-dyad “ in the center of the five rings. The model shows the different environmental “rings” that influence the mentor-child dyad: family, school, peers .. etc. (in the inner two rings, the micro and meso system), the different systems like educational – and governmental system (in the exo system) and the dimension of time as the chronosystem in the outer ring.
This Bronfenbrenner model formed the basis for:
- STAR, a study to analyze relationships among 36 cases from BBBS (BigBrotherBigSister-) affiliates to understand match duration and premature match endings. STAR interviewed the mentor, the parents and the program staff. Not the young people. They made a triangle for all of the matches. Red line = problematic, green = smoothly .
Results show that stigmatization and implicit biases in relationships of mentors and parents/guardians, agency workers and parents/guardians are important factors for endings of formal youth mentoring relationships.
The case example in figure 1 Renee used as an illustration of how relational and socio-cultural contexts of the parties in the model can influence the quality and duration of mentoring matches.
prof. Spencer: “ The study shows the gaps between classes” (between mentor and child, parents, agencies), like the mentor gap between affluent youth and youth coming from low income families, class-based, class prejudices, implicit biases. Data show that social class shapes people’s lives experiences . Prof Spencer: “What struck us were the issues around social class. It comes out in the stories about relationships… So, (in case of matching) keep paying attention to context issues”. (like social class).

Results out of the STAR study

The main data that came out of the deep-interviews are:
- mentors tend to have class-based implicit negative biases (like in judging the parents education and living circumstances and misreading parental behavior),
- the program staff was not always objective and chose the side of the -biased- mentor
- mentors felt unappreciated by parents and or youth
- mentors showed a lack of understanding of living situation of the parents
- relationships M-Y mentors are stronger and longer when the mentor shows understanding and respect to the parents and child (in most cases)
- mentoring agencies (MSS) are influencing all relationships in the ecological system: M-Y, P/G-Y as well as P/G-M. (Fig. 1)
Remarkable is that these negative effects, due to differences in social status and ecological group influences, do not seem to occur when mentors and youth are of the same background. That is one of the reasons why Renee , like her colleague keynote speakers Jean Rhodes and Joan Becker, advocate for the YIM-model as the most, promising model for the future of mentoring:

- Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM)
What is Youth Initiated Mentoring, YIM? Renee: Youth identify adults to serve as their mentor, while the program finds, recruits, screens and trains adults and match them. This approach can be the answer to the lack of mentors that meet the demand of (higher risk) youth and for the premature match endings and also for the low effect sizes of mentoring that Jean mentioned in her keynote. Results are promising. Renee: “YIM changes not only the matching and recruiting process, it changes the whole relationship”, proven by what participants in the YIM-program reported as the main criteria to pick a mentor: “that they do not judge me!”

Keynote dr. Joan Becker: How does the YIM approach work in practice?

Joan Becker gave the answer to this question by presenting her curriculum “connected futures”, a school based mentoring program that teaches students to develop networks of mentors. The curriculum was implemented for an experimental group of 160 students.
Briefly, the curriculum of Connected Futures can be described as follows:

The core principles:
- recruit mentors from same backgrounds but different education
- start where the individual is not yet where you want them to (at a lower level than the final goal)
- agency development-teaching underserved youth to build mentoring networks.

Pedagogical Approach:
Ø Interactive, collaborative, and relevant
Ø Connected to student goals
Ø Role playing to practice new skills
Ø Constructive feedback
Ø Focused on the “here’ and ‘now’
Ø “Real world” homework assignments
Ø Culminates in a networking event
Ø Safe, supportive context “like a family”
Ø Looking at tailoring sections to beginning students focused on transition into higher education, ones to students close to degree completion
Ø focused on transition to career.

The description of the curriculum in terms of goals:
Week 1: Welcome! What is a mentor, and how can mentors help me?
Week 2: What are my strengths
Week 3: How do I set goals in my personal and professional life that I can really achieve?
Week 4: What are my tools for developing and maintaining relationships with mentors?
Week 5: How do I define my social identity (self-perception), and what effect does that have on
networking for me?
Week 6: How can I cope effectively with some common challenges to networking?
Week 7: How do I use my relationships in college to help me achieve my goals?
Week 8: How do I identify, recruit and develop a relationship with a mentor?
Week 9: Who do I need to connect with her on campus?
Week 10: who am I going to reach out to for an informational interview?
Week 11: What other tools might I need as I recruit mentors?
Week 12: What’s next for me? How will I use networking and mentor attracting skills in the future?
Week 13: Semester Reflection
Week 14: How do I prepare for the networking Event
Week 15: Networking Event

Dr Becker finished her keynote with the metaphor that covers all YIM based programs: “ Not doing it for them, but teach them to do it!”. Teach them to fish”. “And besides that”, she adds,” fill up the pond once and a while” (by recruiting fitting mentors).

Keynote of prof. Tim Cavell: lunch-buddies as successful intervention for chronically bullied kids

Tim Cavell’s keynote described a successful experiment of how mentoring can be used to counter social exclusion in the primary grades. prof. Cavell: “ as a perfect example of what Jean calls (targeted-) programs that are fitting in mentoring programs”. He and his team found that preventive mentoring anti-bully programs for chronically bullied kids, with (heavily trained, (older peer-) mentors, parents and teachers , is less effective than the intervention of friendship based lunch buddies during school lunches.
- what bullying means for the kid: bullied kids are seen as outgroup members. They are stigmatized, ostracized due to fear of social contamination, in fact dehumanized. Kids get stuck in the role of victim. They start to blame themselves.
prof. Cavell: “The victims of bullying are embedded in a socially constructed narrative that is maintained collectively by peers, like: “nobody likes him, she’s weird, he brings it on himself”. The status and situation of bullies is very hard to change and improve. It is fueled by social exclusion. Cavell:” the sad thing is that who bullies tends to believe that bullying is wrong. That is what keeps the bullying going. Parents struggle, teachers struggle, kids struggle.
- Evidence-based anti-bully interventions
There are several universal prevention anti-bully programmes in use . They do work in the sense that the numbers of kids that report involvement with bullying or victimization was significantly declined, when the programs were implemented with fidelity and under condition of clear rules and consequences, greater teacher awareness and supervision and a positive school climate. Prof. Cavell: “Sadly ironic is that chronic victims do not benefit from these programs; their risk becomes bigger when the average of overall victims declines!
- the plans
prof Cavell's idea behind the anti-bully programme experiment for primary 2-nd and 3-rd grade children, was that kids are surrounded by all kind of players, teachers, parents, football coaches, etc. He wanted to introduce a mentor for chronically bullied kids as one of those players. All the people around this kid could be one of the players as a natural mentor.

- The experiment: The mentors (N=75) were highly supervised, the children were trained in social skills. Also the parents and the teachers were trained.
prof. Cavell describes the difficulties creating a control group setting, which should be a “fake mentoring condition.” I called Jean (Rhodes: red) and she said: create weak friendship relationships, not long and not strong”, 3 to 6 months. And choose a setting where children gather, like in school cafeteria’s.“ So they did. (For the chronically bullied kids, N=70)
Every table in the lunch cafeteria had a mentor, one was her or his mentee. The consulting was once a week, so the relationships were short and weak.

- The results:.
It happened that all the kids wanted to share the conversations at the table, which weakened the mentor -mentee relationships.
Unexpectedly for the researchers, the presence of a lunch buddy joining a chronically bullied kid and his or her peers at the lunch table, improved the social ecology of the mentees and their peers relationships. Their relationships changed, simply by openly choosing to sit next to the bulled kid. prof. Cavell describes what a lunch buddy (a college student) reported :” Some occasions there were kids who would ask me if I were a friend of parent. One time a student asked me why did I want to sit with him . Each time I responded that he was my friend, and I thought it was pretty cool that I got to sit with him at lunch. The students who asked would look like they were shocked, then begun to sit next to us on every visit. It was amazing how their little attitudes or thoughts towards my mentee changed by me saying I was his friend, and I like sitting with him”.

- Conclusions:
Places where children gather like school cafeterias are extra risky for chronically bullied kids, but also offer opportunities for social exchange. You may sit by children at random which might change relationships between the peers and mentee. Lunch buddy mentoring can therefore improve relationships and as a result of that improve social emotional and academic functioning.

An impression of the poster presentations

- Austria: a mentoring program for unaccompanied refugee youth
Austria presented a workshop session about a pilot project in Austria in which Mentoring is used as a tool to support unaccompanied refugee minors in order to stimulate their integration. Mentoring was implemented as organized medium of support and became the only choice. Context of this project a few years ago, was the upcoming of a radical right wing political atmosphere in Austria, and the risk for young refugees not to be able to build up relationships with other people. Two community based mentoring programs were implemented for unaccompanied refugee youth, with the intention to fill the gap of a lack of available services or therapies for this vulnerable group. Interesting is that today the program is still running.
Results are promising. The mentees attained relationships that offered them embeddedness in society, to attain feelings of togetherness and affective belonging, improved their social participation, provided them access to knowledge of the society and social support and reflected institutional and political contexts for asylum seekers (e.g. discrimination) .
(Dr. Eberhard Raithelhubers, University of Salzburg)

- Israel: Perach project, a national programme for social impact
The Perach project compared in a study of at least 6000 mentors the effects of individual training and supervision versus group training/supervision. The researchers found that group training/supervision provided better effects for the mentors. They showed better results in finding new ways of goal setting, finding new ways of connecting and ways to tackle arising problems with their mentee. They were more satisfied with their mentoring process concerning minority groups and showed a more positive attitude.

- Germany, Universität Munich:
The researchers studied among a group of 17 mentor-mentee dyads whether children’s empathic accuracy is influenced by the presence of a mentor. Besides they wanted to prove that effects of youth mentoring can be measured in an experiments, instead of by using measuring instruments like questionnaires.
The researchers found that children show a higher empathic accuracy with their mentor present instead of a research assistant. Children identify and rate emotions in strangers more accurately when their mentor is present. Also they could draw the conclusion that effects of youth mentoring are not limited to ( instruments like) self-ratings but can be shown in experimental settings.
(Poster presentation: Tina Braun)

What does the mentoring field wish for the future?

After an educational two days, the audience of mentoring representatives could hand over their wishlist for the future of mentoring. What is their biggest dream?

. a system where there are enough mentors in the school system (Amsterdam, School’s cool)
. mentors of different ages, that we raise mentors to become a mentor, creating possibilities for lifespan mentoring and making it a right to everyone (AFEV, France)
. in Singapore mentoring failed because it was too much top down. Nowadays the alliance has been grown up to 11 programs. Dream is: a mentor for everybody (Mentoring Alliance Singapore SGP)
. more mentors than we now can provide. I would like to advocate for volunteers full-time, not instead of work, but as an addition. I would like a national program for social impact. Mentoring influences the lives of young people that will be the next leaders of our country. Mentoring should become a safety network. (University of Salzburg)
. in rural areas (in Australia) it is hard to find mentors. My dream would be to crack that problem
. mentoring through the region, working online
. in Spain is a high school drop-out. My dream would be financially supported mentoring programs in primary and secondary schools. (Coordinadora Mentoría Socíal ES)
. in Italy, the project Mentoring Up is still small scaled. My dream is that the project becomes national and also, that we have a shared measure what and how to measure internationally. (Mentor-UP Italy)
. Barcelona organizes the next mentoring summit: 18-20 of March2020, SAVE THE DATE! My dream is that sport becomes a tool in mentoring(AFEV, Spain)
. My dream is to combine the one-on-one mentoring friendship model with the targeted model by using Apps
. research about mentoring provides us data and our American colleagues provide us with that. Thanks! But what I miss is the inclusion of the practitioner. Then you can change your program along the process. The mentoring is about building network that goes over borders. (NHL Stenden University Friesland)
. each mentor for specific mentoring ( Tim Cavell, University of Arkansas US)
The list of dreams of the participants of the Short Course is long. It shows the many challenges the mentoring field – both, researchers and practitioners - has to overcome in order to reach a common dream: a society in which mentoring is fully integrated. The Short Course 2019 has brought us a little bit closer towards that goal.

@ This summary was written by Els Tolk, PhD student, European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring