National Mentoring Resource Center Blog

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Understanding Group Formation is Key to Successful Group Mentoring

JANUARY 18, 2016

Editor’s note: This week we are excited to be releasing the first in our series of publications exploring the research evidence on mentoring in certain program models or for certain populations. Dr. Gabe Kuperminc of our Research Board has authored a summary of what we know, and where we need more research, on group mentoring models. To supplement his evidence review, we’ve asked an experienced practitioner, Vida Sanford of Project Arrive/Mentoring for Success, to share her thoughts about what makes group mentoring effective and how practitioners can help their groups thrive.

I was recently at a meeting of mentoring program professionals where everyone in attendance was involved in running traditional one-to-one mentoring programs, except for me. During lunch, someone asked me about the program I work with. I explained that I manage a school-based group mentoring program in San Francisco called Mentoring For Success: Project Arrive, designed to support 9th grade students who had struggled academically and socially in middle school. The colleague replied "I tried to run a group once or twice. I couldn't get them to do anything. They wouldn't stay on topic, they did whatever they wanted, talked over each other and didn't listen to anything I said. I had no idea what I was in for."

I knew exactly what she meant. It's hard to run a good group! When San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) received funding from OJJDP in 2010 to pilot a group mentoring program for students with truancy issues, we struggled to find viable research and resources to guide us on how to train and coach group mentors to lead effective groups. Nevertheless, we remained confident that a successful group mentoring experience could bring many unique benefits to students that SFUSD’s established one-to-one model could not.

Project Arrive forged ahead and we have learned a lot along the way, especially around the importance of group formation when developing a group mentoring program, one in which participants feel a sense of belonging, connection, and trust. Creating cohesive, connected and purposeful groups, especially for high-energy adolescents, doesn't happen without time and effort. Group mentors need to be trained on the same principles and practices that apply to 1:1 mentoring, but they also require additional awareness and understanding of the process of group formation and dynamics to better understand and address what is happening within their group at a given point in time.

In attempting to develop meaningful training content for our mentors, psychologist Bruce Tuckman's simple and memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing" is both useful and accessible to mentors, especially those who don't have a clinical or social work background. He described the 4-stage path that most teams follow on their way to high performance, and later added a fifth stage, "adjourning". We have found these to be highly applicable to the context of school-based group mentoring and offer some suggestions here about how mentors can support their groups in moving successfully through each stage.

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Youth Initiated Mentoring as a Game Changer for Disconnected Youth in Nebraska

DECEMBER 10, 2015

At Midlands Mentoring Partnership (MMP), our community-wide data indicates that a priority must be made to reach the most vulnerable youth with quality formal mentoring services. A prospective solution came in 2013 when promising research was released that showed a tremendous potential for utilizing a new mentoring model called Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM) to recruit positive adult role models to serve these youth. YIM empowers youth to identify and engage potential mentors within the constellation of caring adults already a part of their lives. The youth are then matched with their selected mentor in a formal mentoring model. The screening and training of the prospective mentor is supervised, facilitated, monitored, and supported by mentoring programs utilizing best practices.


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Welcome to the NMRC Blog!

DECEMBER 10, 2015

The National Mentoring Resource Center has been providing technical assistance, training, and reviews of mentoring research and resources for almost one year now. In fact we recently posted 18 evidence-based reviews of programs and specific practices. But in spite of all this outreach and engagement of the youth mentoring community, we realized that there was more we could do to bring information and innovations to practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. This new blog represents one strategy in providing you with more access to insights, opinions, and fresh information that can strengthen your programs and build a true community of mentoring professionals nationally.

The NMRC blog will feature frequent posts from seasoned mentoring program staff and updates on new trends and innovations from established technical assistance providers and researchers. We want to bring more voices and more conversation to the NMRC work. And to that end, we’re happy to include reader comments with these posts. So if you read something provocative, interesting, or complex in this space, please join in the conversation and share your thoughts and wisdom!


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