Mentor Training for Cultural Competence

  • Evidence Rating for this Practice:

    Insufficient Research (2 Studies)

    In both of the studies reviewed, the methodology used for assessing effects of the practice did not meet relevant criteria for rigor. As a result, these studies were each designated as Insufficient Evidence and the practice as a whole is designated as Insufficient Research. This rating is based on currently available research and may change as new findings become available.

    Description of Practice:

    Cultural competence training for mentors consists of guidance that is intended to develop attitudes, behaviors, and practices that enable mentors to interact and work effectively with mentees from different cultural backgrounds (Sanchez et al., 2014). Culture is understood broadly to include the values, norms, and practices of a given group that are learned, shared, and transmitted across generations (Kreuter et al., 2003). This practice is consistent with recommended enhancements to Training in the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM (Garringer et al., 2015). Training for cultural competence is, however, distinguished from mentor training in general due to its specific focus on strengthening mentors’ ability to respect and value diverse cultural backgrounds. It is also distinguished from individualized support or coaching that may be provided to mentors with the aim of promoting culturally competent mentoring. This would include, for example, “cultural tailoring” in which individualized support is designed to be responsive to information gathered in an assessment of the unique characteristics of the mentor and/or mentee (Kreuter et al., 2003).

    Training focused on cultural competence may be provided to mentors at any point in time and thus may take place before or at any point in time after the start of their relationships with mentees. Training of this type may be focused on one or more of the following: 1) increasing awareness about culture and important components of culture, 2) increasing mentors’ awareness of their own cultural background, values and assumptions and how these may influence their perceptions of their mentees, 3) increasing mentor knowledge of the cultural backgrounds of young people, including the potential needs and assets of the home, school, and community environments of mentees, and 4) increasing mentors’ skills in applying cultural knowledge in their relationships with mentees as well as others who are important in mentees’ lives (e.g., parents) (Sanchez et al., 2014; Suffrin, 2014).

    Although not required, mentor training in cultural competence may be targeted to the backgrounds of a specific population of mentees (e.g., immigrant youth, Native American youth), to the specific goals of a program (e.g., a program focused on educational outcomes for African American youth might include training on the potential effects of stereotype threat on the academic achievement of minority youth), and/or to the backgrounds of mentors (e.g., White mentors matched with youth of color). The frequency, duration, and format of training can also vary. For example, training may be delivered in a group format or individually and either in-person or online. The training must, however, include an interactive component (e.g., role plays to practice skills being introduced) and incorporate standardized content; a passive review of written materials related to cultural competence or, as noted above, individualized coaching or support thus would not fall within the scope of this practice.


    To prepare mentors to be sensitive and responsive to both the needs and assets of youth from diverse cultural backgrounds.

    Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:

    This practice is potentially applicable to all forms of mentoring and the full range of youth who may be served by programs.

    Theory and Background Research:

    The focus of this practice on strengthening mentors’ knowledge, skills, and efficacy beliefs for mentoring youth from different cultural backgrounds is consistent with the established importance of such factors as influences on engaging in new behavior (in this case, those involved with effectively mentoring a young person from a cultural background that is different from one’s own background) in well-established theories of behavior change (e.g., Montano & Kasprzyk, 2015). Furthermore, the potential for mentor cultural competence to enhance mutuality, trust, and empathy within the mentoring relationship is consistent with the posited importance of these factors in shaping development and adjustment outcomes in Rhodes’ (2005) model of youth mentoring. There are also several studies in which youths’ perceptions of their mentors’ cultural competence or mentors’ self-reports of cultural competence have been linked to better ratings of relationship quality (Sanchez et al., 2014). A qualitative study of youth mentoring relationship failures also revealed that the inability to matches to bridge cultural differences appeared to be a salient contributor to the end of relationships (Spencer, 2007). Furthermore, one recent study (Suffrin , 2014) found that the mentor’s score on a self-report measure of multicultural competence was a significant and positive predictor of mentor satisfaction with the mentoring relationship and the mentoring program, mentor plans to continue volunteering for the mentoring program, and reports of engaging in extra-role pro-social behaviors (i.e., going “above and beyond their prescribed roles”).

    Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:

    This practice is most relevant to the areas of Training within the Elements of Effective Practice.

    Key Personnel:

    The successful implementation of this practice is likely to require staff to have mastery of the substantive content of the training, skills for group facilitation, and familiarity with adult learning principles. It may be very important, as well, for staff to have reflected on their own cultural background and experiences, including those relating to considerations such as privilege and implicit bias, and to have received appropriate opportunities for training and support around this process.

    Additional Information:


  • Study 1

    Evidence Classification:

    Insufficient Evidence

    Evaluation Methodology:

    Taussig and colleagues (2010) examined correlates of mentor training for cultural competence as part of an evaluation of the Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program. FHF is a mentoring and therapeutic skills intervention for nine- to eleven-year old youth who have been placed in foster care due to maltreatment. As part of the mentoring component of the intervention, each child received nine months of one-on-one mentoring. Mentors were graduate students receiving internship or practicum credits. Mentors were matched with two children each and spent 2 to 4 hours per week working with each child over the course of an academic year. This program was reviewed for CrimeSolutions; the review and accompanying insights for practitioners are also available at the National Mentoring Resource Center website.

    Mentors participated in a three-day orientation before they were matched with children, during which they were trained on methods for setting limits, establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries, working with different cultures, and protecting confidentiality. Mentors also received on-going training and supervision, which included weekly didactic seminars on topics salient for working with maltreated children. In the sixth year of the program, based on mentor feedback, a formalized training on cultural competence was incorporated into the orientation and an effort was made to incorporate regular discussions of cultural competence issues into supervision sessions.

    Mentors who participated in the program between 2002 and 2008 were invited to complete an online survey. Of the 52 mentors contacted, 50 completed the survey; 88 percent were female, 94 percent were White, and the mean age was 29.3 years. The survey asked mentors to rate their FHF training experience and how well it prepared them for their careers. For this review, we focused on mentor ratings of how well the training prepared them to work with diverse cultures. The question was rated on a 3-point scale – Very Well, Well, or Not Well.

    Ratings on the question of interest were compared between mentors who did not receive training for cultural competence (mentors in years 1-5 of the program) and those who did receive the training (mentors in year 6). For purposes of this review, chi-square analysis and independent samples t-tests were conducted on the ratings to assess the statistical significance of the association between ratings and group membership.

    Evaluation Outcomes:

    Work with Diverse Cultures
    Taussig and colleagues (2010) found that mentors who received training on cultural competence did not differ significantly from those who did not in their ratings of how well the training prepared them to work with diverse cultures.

    Study 2

    Evidence Classification:

    Insufficient Evidence

    Evaluation Methodology:

    Peaslee & Teye (2015) examined correlates of mentor training for cultural competence as part of a longitudinal evaluation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County school- and site-based mentoring program. This evaluation assessed the impact of enhanced mentor training and peer support on mentoring relationship quality and mentee outcomes. The study sample included 459 newly matched mentor-mentee dyads. The dyads were block randomized into one of four conditions: enhanced mentor training only (n=114), peer support only (n=115), both training and peer support (interaction intervention; n=115), and control (n=115). Using this method, mentor-mentee dyads were randomly subdivided into blocks of fours and dyads within each block were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions.

    Mentor training for cultural competence was provided as part of the enhanced mentor training intervention, a six-module post-match training program on topics related to effective mentoring. The training was web-based, with hard copies were provided for mentors who had limited computer or internet access. Mentors were encouraged to complete all six modules within the first six months of the mentoring relationship. The “Navigating Cultural Differences” module was designed to help “mentors gain a better understanding of their own cultural values and how they affect perception of others; recognize the possible underlying cultural influences in common situations; gain knowledge for respectfully exploring cultural values and practices with others; learn an approach for recovering from cultural misunderstandings; have a stronger foundation for building a trusting relationship with their Little and his or her family” (p. 18).

    Mentors were administered the Strength of Relationship-Mentor (SORM) survey via email or phone at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months into the mentoring relationship. At the 6- and 12-month survey administrations, the original, 14-item SORM survey was expanded to include a 22-item Mentor Self-Efficacy scale. The Mentor Self-Efficacy scale was also administered at baseline. Questions specific to this review are those that assessed a mentor’s confidence to “mentor a child whose ethnic or cultural background is different than mine”, “mentor a child whose parents’ primary language is different than mine”, and “mentor a child who is underprivileged or in poverty”. Responses were measured on a 10-point Likert scale, ranging from “Cannot Do at all” to “Highly Confident”.

    Of the 459 participating mentors, 450 provided data at baseline and 318 (of 342 in open matches) provided data at 12 months. Among all mentors (n=459), 84 percent were female, 87 percent were White, and 89 percent were college students (mean age was 21.7 years). At baseline, 52.5 percent of matches were site-based and 47.5 percent were community-based; 79.5 percent of matches were matched by gender and 40.5 percent were matched by ethnicity; and mean match length was 13.35 months. Baseline bias analysis revealed that mentor occupation, education level, and gender were not equivalent across the four study conditions – the control condition had a higher proportion of mentors who were community members (relative to students) and had graduate degrees than those in the other conditions. Match characteristics, however, were found not to differ significantly across the study conditions. Sixty-eight percent of mentors assigned to the conditions with the training program reported completing or starting any of the training modules; 21.7 percent reported completing or starting the “Navigating Cultural Differences” training module. At baseline, 63.2 percent of mentees were female; in terms of race/ethnicity, 39.8 percent were White, 41.3 percent were Hispanic, 15.3 percent were Black, and 3.4 percent were Other. Additionally, nearly all (94.1%) of mentees were in elementary school (grades K-6).

    Statistical tests were conducted to investigate the effect of the enhanced training, which included the “Navigating Cultural Differences” module, by comparing the enhanced training only and control groups on mentor ratings of self-efficacy for mentoring a child from a different cultural background, a child whose parents primarily speak a different language, and a child who is underprivileged or in poverty.

    Evaluation Outcomes:

    Peaslee & Teye (2015) found no significant difference, at 12-months post-test, between mentors who did and did not receive training for cultural competence with regard to their confidence to mentor a child whose cultural background is different from the mentor’s, their confidence to mentor a child whose parent’s primary language is different from the mentor’s, or their confidence to mentor a child who is underprivileged or in poverty.

  • External Validity Evidence:

    Variations in the Practice
    The format of cultural competence training offered to mentors differed across the two reviewed studies. In Taussig and colleagues (2010), training was offered as part of a three-day, in-person orientation program and was required for all mentors. In Peaslee & Teye (2015), training was provided as a single, electronic training module that mentors could access as often as needed; completion of the module was also encouraged rather than required. Detailed information about the content areas addressed is limited for both studies. Although differences in the content, format, and/or delivery of mentor training for cultural competence could be consequential, this possibility was not examined within either study and with only two studies there is insufficient information to draw possible inferences in this regard based on examination of findings across investigations.

    The mentoring programs that where the focus of the two studies reviewed targeted youth with differing backgrounds of risk. Specifically, whereas youth in the Taussig and colleagues (2010) study were preadolescents who were in foster care due to maltreatment, those in the Peaslee & Teye (2015) study were characterized as having low levels of individual and environmental risk. In terms of racial and ethnic backgrounds, youth in the Peaslee & Teye (2015) study were predominantly White or Hispanic; youth racial and ethnic information was not provided in the Taussig and colleagues (2010) study. Notably, neither of the programs studied was oriented toward serving older adolescents, for whom cultural considerations (e.g., ethnic identity development) may be particularly salient and consequential (e.g., Quintana ethnic identity review or others). Neither study tested for differences in effects of the practice across subgroups of youth. In sum, available findings provide only a limited basis for developing an understanding of the potentially similar and/or differential implications of this practice based on characteristics of the youth being mentored.

    Most of the mentors represented in the two studies reviewed were female, White, and undergraduate or graduate students. The studies reviewed, moreover, did not test for differences in effect of mentor training for cultural competence in relation to these mentor characteristics or others that could be consequential for this practice, such as pre-existing levels of cultural awareness or understanding.

    Program Settings/Structures
    Both studies in this review were conducted within mentoring programs that use a 1-to-1 mentoring format. There was, however, notable variation in other aspects of the programs. Whereas the study by Taussig and colleagues (2010) was conducted within a multi-component program (i.e., one that combined mentoring with other supports or services for the youth being mentored, in this case therapeutic skills training), the other (Peaslee & Teye , 2015) involved “stand alone” mentoring programs of a BBBS affiliate. There remain, however, a number of other types of programs (e.g., e-mentoring, those based in correctional settings) not represented in existing research on this practice.

    The studies reviewed evaluated the effects of mentor training for cultural competence on outcomes focused on the mentors’ self-assessed readiness for working with youth from diverse cultural backgrounds. Thus, although findings were consistent, they do not contribute to understanding of potential effects of this practice on other types of outcomes (i.e., mentoring relationships or the youth being mentored) as well as its effects on mentors when using other measurement strategies (e.g., ratings of program staff).

  • Resources Available to Support Implementation:

    Resources to support implementation of mentor training for cultural competence can be found under the Resources section of this website These include:

    BGCA Best Practices: Mentoring Native Youth – This resource contains tips and recommendations for mentoring practitioners for enhancing cultural competence in their work with Native youth. It includes information about cultural norms and cross-cultural communication as well as tips for training and retaining mentors, with specific information about training non-Native mentors.

    Guide to Mentoring Boys and Young Men of Color – This guide serves as a supplement to the fourth edition of The Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM, and includes additional recommended practices focusing on boys and young men of color.

    Ready to Go: Mentor Training Toolkit – This resource offers a variety of training activities for both pre-match and ongoing training of adult and peer mentors. Activities are grouped by subject in modules: Building Mentoring Relationships; Setting Boundaries; Communication; and Youth Development and Cultural Competency.

  • Evidence Base:

    Peaslee, L., & Teye, A. C. (2015). Testing the impact of mentor training and peer support on the quality of mentor-mentee relationships and outcomes for at-risk youth. Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University. Retrieved from

    Taussig, H. N., Culhane, S. E., Raviv, T., Fitzpatrick, L. E. S., & Hodas, R. W. (2010). Mentoring children in foster care: Impact on graduate student mentors. Educational Horizons, 89, 17–32.

    Additional References:

    Garringer, M., Kupersmidt, J., Rhodes, J., Stelter, R., & Tai, T. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring (4th ed.). Boston, MA: MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

    Kreuter, M. W., Lukwago, S. N., Bucholtz, D. C., Clark, E. M., & Sanders-Thompson, V. (2002). Achieving cultural appropriateness in health promotion programs: Targeted and tailored approaches. Health Education & Behavior, 30, 133–146.

    Montano, D. E., & Kasprzyk D. (2015) Theory of Reasoned Action, Theory of Planned Behavior, and the Integrated Behavior Model. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior: Theory, research, and action (5th ed., pp. 95-124). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Rhodes, J. E. (2005). A model of youth mentoring. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (pp. 30–43). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Sanchez, B., Colon-Torres, Y., Feuer, R., Roundfield, K. E., & Berardi, L. (2014). Race, ethnicity, and culture in mentoring relationships. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (2nd ed., pp. 145–158). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Spencer, R. (2007). “It’s not what I expected:” A qualitative study of youth mentoring relationship failures. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22, 331–354.

    Suffrin, R. L. (2014). The role of multicultural competence, privilege, attributions, and team support in predicting positive youth mentor outcomes. College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations. Paper 69. Retrieved from

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