A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

[Education Consumer Guide]

Number 7

October 1993


WHAT IS IT? Mentoring--from the Greek word meaning enduring--is defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult. Through continued involvement, the adult offers support, guidance, and assistance as the younger person goes through a difficult period, faces new challenges, or works to correct earlier problems. In particular, where parents are either unavailable or unable to provide responsible guidance for their children, mentors can play a critical role.

The two types of mentoring are natural mentoring and planned mentoring. Natural mentoring occurs through friendship, collegiality, teaching, coaching, and counseling. In contrast, planned mentoring occurs through structured programs in which mentors and participants are selected and matched through formal processes.

WHY ARE MENTORING PROGRAMS SO POPULAR? The number of mentoring programs has grown dramatically in recent years. This popularity results in part from compelling testimonials by people--youth and adults alike--who have themselves benefited from the positive influence of an older person who helped them endure social, academic, career, or personal crises.

HOW DO THEY WORK? Mentoring programs are established to match a suitable adult or older youth--the mentor--with a younger person. Potential mentors are recruited from various sources including corporate, professional, and religious communities, as well as neighborhood citizens. Nominations for mentors are sought formally and informally through flyers, posters, mailings, and word-of-mouth.

Appropriately matching mentors with youths is at the heart of all programs. Matching can be done formally and informally through interviews, personal profiles, comparative interest inventories, and get-acquainted sessions. In programs where mentors and youths are given a chance to choose each other, planned mentoring takes on many aspects of natural mentoring.

WHY ARE THEY NEEDED? Data clearly show many youths have a desperate need for positive role models. The most compelling data describe changes to the American family structure: the number of single-parent homes has radically increased, as have two-parent working families. More preventive care is needed, as are support networks to fill the void left by busy or absent parents. Other statistics are equally troubling: each day in the United States, 3,600 students drop out of high school, and 2,700 unwed teenage girls get pregnant (Petersmeyer 1989).

WHAT ARE THEY FOR? Mentoring programs generally serve the following broad purposes:

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF MENTORING PROGRAMS? Traditional programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters have been joined by school-based programs, independent living skills programs, court-mandated programs, and recreational "buddy" programs. Religious institutions continue to play a leadership role, and corporations and social organizations now promote employee and member involvement (Newman 1990). Increasingly, older youth are encouraged to volunteer as part of their educational requirements.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY? Arlene Mark of New York City's I Have a Dream program observed, "We will only know who can be helped or what is the right kind of mentoring, when we try it." (Flaxman and Ascher 1992). Yet while research on the effects of mentoring is scarce, some studies and program evaluations do support positive claims (Flaxman 1992). In an evaluation of Project RAISE, a Baltimore-based mentoring project, McPartland and Nettles (1991) found mentoring had positive affects on school attendance and grades in English but not on promotion rates or standardized test scores. They concluded that positive effects are much more likely when one-on-one mentoring has been strongly implemented. Another evaluation (Cave and Quint 1990) found participants in various mentoring programs had higher levels of college enrollment and higher educational aspirations than nonparticipants receiving comparable amounts of education and job-related services (figure 1).

Figure 1.--Effects of the Career Beginnings program on college attendance: Monthly attendance at 2- or 4-year colleges, 1988-89

[figure 1 omitted]

NOTE: The people in the study were assigned at random to either an experimental group or a control group. Experimentals were eligible for Career Beginnings, which included a mentoring component; controls were excluded from Career Beginnings but were free to participate in other services available in their schools and communities.

SOURCE: Adapted from George Cave and Janet Quint, Career Beginnings Impact Evaluation: Findings from a Program for Disadvantaged High Schools Students (New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, October 1990). Copyright 1990 by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation and used with permission.

Where can I get more information?

ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Main Hall, Room 300, Box 40
525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027-9998
(212) 678-3433

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
230 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Project RAISE
Fund for Educational Excellence
616-D North Eutaw Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

One Plus One
4802 5th Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Public/Private Ventures
399 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106


Bordenkircher, Thomas G.
A Directory of Youth Mentoring Programs and Materials. Pittsburgh, PA: The Plus Project on Mentoring, 1991.

Cave, G., and J. Quint.
Career Beginnings Impact Evaluation: Findings from a Program for Disadvantaged High School Students. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, 1990. ERIC Number ED 325598.

Flaxman, E.
Evaluating Mentoring Programs. New York: Institute for Urban and Minority Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1992.

Flaxman, E., and C. Ascher.
Mentoring in Action. New York: Institute for Urban and Minority Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1992.

McPartland, James M. and Saundra M. Nettles.
"Using Community Adults as Advocates or Mentors for At-Risk Middle School Students: A Two-Year Evaluation of Project RAISE." American Journal of Education, 1991, 99(4), pp. 568-586.

Newman, Michael.
Beginning a Mentoring Program. Pittsburgh, PA: PLUS (Project Literacy U.S.), 1990.

Petersmeyer, C.G.
"Assessing the Need" in M. Newman, Beginning a Mentoring Program. Pittsburgh, PA: One Plus One, 1989, p. 5.

by Gregory Dennis
ERIC Program, Office of Research

This is the seventh Education Research CONSUMER GUIDE--a series published for teachers, parents, and others interested in current education themes.

OR 93-3059
ED/OERI 92-38
Editor: Nancy Floyd

This Consumer Guide is produced by the Office of Research, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education.
Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education
Sharon P. Robinson, Assistant Secretary, OERI
Joseph C. Conaty, Acting Director, OR


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