Group mentoring, in which one or several mentors work with a group of mentees, has long been a popular model for providing youth with a mentoring relationship—at one point it was estimated that 20% of the nation’s programs were utilizing a group model.i This model has gained increasing popularity in recent years as practitioners, particularly those working in schools, afterschool settings, and recreational programs have looked for a way to offer mentoring without relying on the labor-intensive and often-inconsistent results of recruiting large numbers of community adults to volunteer as mentors. In addition to potentially reducing recruitment issues, these programs also can provide a “dual” impact: providing growth and development for younger mentees while also offering older youth a chance to build leadership skills, gain self-confidence, and experience the fifth “C” (contribution) found in the youth development model championed by Richard Lerner and others.ii
Group mentoring programs are offered in a variety of settings with diverse goals depending on the demographics and needs of the participants. Popular variations include models where participants are all the same gender (e.g., serving groups of boys), as well as peer models where older adolescents mentor elementary age youth, or more “near peer” approaches such ashigh school seniors mentoring incoming freshmen. Because of the group makeup of these programs, they tend to emphasize collaborative activities and other group tasks, although most programs also provide opportunities for personal sharing and discussion of relevant topics.
What does the research say about group mentoring?
In 2016 the National Mentoring Research Center conducted an extensive evidence review to determine what the research on group mentoring programs had generally concluded about their effectiveness, the factors that enhance or limit their effectiveness, and efforts to bring group mentoring to scale nationally. This review concluded that there is some preliminary evidence that:
- Group mentoring programs can produce an array of positive outcomes for youth (behavioral, emotional, academic, etc.) and seem to be effective across a wide range of youth participants (ages, ethnicities, etc.).
- Additional relational processes, such as group cohesion and belonging and a strong group identity, may also contribute to the outcomes youth experience from group mentoring.
- Group mentoring programs offer a context for activities that develop mentee skills, change mentee attitudes, and offer positive peer interactions; and that these processes may lead to behavioral outcomes for participants.
This full Model Review, which also includes tips for practitioners offering or developing group mentoring services, is available in the links below. Recommendations for practitioners include:
- Offering training for group mentors on how to manage the dynamics and personalities of the group, how to implement the program activities, and how to coordinate their mentor role with the other mentors in the group if the model has multiple mentors interacting with the same mentees.
- Tailoring activities and training to the natural lifecycle of the group.
- Offering ongoing support to mentors and mentees to ensure that all youth get a quality mentoring experience and that issues keeping the group from functioning optimally can be addressed as they arise.
What does the NMRC offer on group mentoring?
Broad Evidence Reviews
- The NMRC Research Board has conducted a program model review entitled Group Mentoring, examining the research evidence for mentoring programs that use a group format.
Reviews of Specific Programs
- Peer Group Connection’s program design includes high school peer leaders engaging with groups of freshmen mentees. Read the review, and the accompanying insights for practitioners.
- The Early Risers ‘Skills for Success’ Program engages elementary school youth at risk for early development of conduct problems in social skills training groups with peers. Read the review.
- The Fostering Healthy Futures Program includes weekly skills groups focused on the therapeutic needs of youth placed in out-of-home care due to child maltreatment. Read the review and the accompanying insights for practitioners.
- Keep Safe incorporates a group component for both youth in foster care and their caregivers, with the goal building youths’ social skills, positive peer relationships, and self-confidence. Read the review and our insights for practitioners.
- The SNAP® (Stop Now And Plan) Under 12 Outreach Project (SNAP® ORP) is specialized intervention for boys under 12 who display aggressive and antisocial behavior problems, which incorporates group work focused on social/emotional skill-building. Read the review.
- Cognitive-Behavioral, Group Mentoring Intervention for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disturbances connected mentors with children in a group setting to practice social problem-solving and social interaction skills as well as other activities based on group interests. Read the review and our insights for practitioners.
- SAM (Solution, Action, Mentorship) Program for Adolescent Girls is a school-based, substance use prevention program for adolescent girls in middle school, which includes a weekly 1 hour group session. Read the review and our insights for practitioners.
Reviews of Relevant Practices
- The NMRC Research Board has reviewed the practice of Mentor-mentee activity guidance, which involves supporting matches with particular types of activities or discussions, a relevant topic for group mentoring programs. Check out the accompanying insights for practitioners.
- This blog post about Mentoring for Success: Project Arrive provides an overview of group formation concepts as they relate to successfully facilitating a group mentoring program.
- This webinar, entitled Activity-Based Mentoring: Can Activities Make Mentoring Better?, features seasoned activity-based mentoring practitioners and their insights about activity-based mentoring.
- Designing and Implementing Group Mentoring Programs reviews how to combine mentoring and group work and how to create a group mentoring curriculum.
- The Young Man’s Initiative Activity Catalogue offers a number of games and fun activities that are designed to get male mentors and mentees interacting and learning together, both individually and in groups.
- Developed by Concerned Black Men’s National CARES Mentoring Movement, Wellness Mentoring Circles for Young People: A Guide for Facilitators and Mentors offers guided activities intended to be led by a facilitator and team of mentors, to provide spaces for youth to discuss topics such as mentoring, heritage, spirituality, stress, wellness, relationships and community. Wellness Mentoring Circles for Young Parents offers a similar guide for facilitators and mentors to use with young parents.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)’s Investments in Group Mentoring
- In 2014, OJJDP supported the YouthBuild BRIDGE Mentoring Project in its national group mentoring work, as well as the National 4-H Council and Boys and Girls Clubs of America in their national combined one-to-one and group mentoring work. OJJDP awarded 8 grants for multi-state mentoring programs delivering mentoring through a group model, and 11 grants for multi-state mentoring programs delivering combined one-to-one and group mentoring models.
- OJJDP’s 2015 grantees include Peer Group Connection and the Moyer Foundation’s Camp Mariposa.
- More recently, in 2016, OJJDP funded several group mentoring or combined group and one-to-one initiatives including Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H and National PAL In 2017, OJJDP continued to fund National PAL and 4-H, as well as other group programs such as Center for Supportive Schools’ Peer Group Connection and Friends First’s STARS Peer Mentoring Program.
Select Additional Reading
- Making the Most of Youth Mentoring: A Guide for Funders (2013, Public/Private Ventures)
- Becoming a Man – Sports Edition (2012, University of Chicago Crime Lab)
- Combining mentoring with structured group activities: A potential after-school context for fostering relationships between girls and mentors (2012, Deutsch, N.L., Wiggins, A., Henneberger, A. & Lawrence, E. in Journal of Early Adolescence, 33).
- Group Mentoring: A Study of Mentoring Groups in Three Programs (2002, Public/Private Ventures)
i Sipe, C. L., & Roder, A. E. (1999). Mentoring school-age children: A classification of programs. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.
ii Lerner, R., Brittan, A., & Fay, K. (2007). Mentoring: A key resource for promoting positive youth development. Research in Action, 1, 3-9. Alexandria, VA: MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.