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The Roles And Phases Of Mentorship

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The excerpt below looks at mentoring by faculty and gives some nice insights

into the roles and phases of such relationships. It is taken from: Teaching

Alone, Teaching Together: Transforming the Structure of Teams for Teaching,

James L. Bess and Associates, Chapter Six: The Mentor Facilitating

Out-of-Class Cognitive and Affective Growth by Michael W. Galbraith,

Patricia Maslin-Ostrowski, pp 145-148. Copyright 2000 by Jossey-Bass,

reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: The Temporal Dimension of Gender Inequality in Academia

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


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Michael W. Galbraith,

Patricia Maslin-Ostrowski,



Within the mentorship process, a mentor often assumes multiple roles

to bring about the enhancement of the mentee's professional,

personal, and psychological development. At different times, the

mentor may be a role model, advocate, sponsor, adviser, guide,

developer of skills and intellect, listener, host, coach, challenger,

visionary, balancer, friend, sharer, facilitator, and resource

provider. Along with these roles comes a responsibility to consider

the psychological dimensions of the relationship, for example,

accepting, confirming, counseling, and protecting. The role that best

describes the mentor may be decided as a result of how well the

mentor understands the total mentorship process. Clearly, the mentor

role does not suit all people, including professors.


There has been little investigation of mentoring phases or stages

from a conceptual and theoretical perspective, except for the work of

Kram (1985) and Cohen (1995a). Kram examined the phases of a mentor

relationship from the perspective of psychological and organizational

factors that influence career and psychological functions performed.

She suggests that developmental relationships vary in length but

generally proceed through four predictable, yet not entirely

distinct, phases.

THE INITIAL PHASE is the period in which the relationship is

conceived and becomes important to both mentor and mentee. This phase

may last for a time span of six months to one year. From the

undergraduate perspective, this would occur during the freshman year.

Given the apparently overwhelming challenge of college to most

freshmen on entrance, one can imagine the mentor on the team finding

himself or herself in great demand. Yet, all students, undergraduate

and graduate level, learn best in a supportive environment, and

having a designated mentor on the team will give students much easier

access to faculty. The mentor team member would be willing, able and

desirous of this kind of interaction with students, instead of

faculty whose academic preparation and research makes them offer

"limited office hours."

THE SECOND PHASE, called the cultivation phase, lasts from two to

five years. For the undergraduate, this then might take place during

the sophmore and junior years, or even longer. During this phase, the

positive expectations that emerged during the initiation phase are

continually tested against reality. The mentor and mentee discover

the real value of relating to each other and clarify the boundaries

of their relationship.

PHASE THREE, separation, is marked by significant changes in the

relationship and might happen during or soon after a student's senior

year. It is a time when the mentee experiences new independence and

autonomy, as well as turmoil, anxiety, and feelings of loss. The

separation phase lasts from six months to two years. Mentors on teams

that are teaching college seniors or students at the end of their

graduate course work will represent a new resource to students

feeling the anxiety of departure from the comfort of their college or

university years and seeing the uncertainty of their postgraduate


THE FINAL PHASE is redefinition. In this phase, the relationship

takes on significantly different characteristics and becomes either a

more pee-like friendship or one that is characterized by hostility

and resentment. In general, during the redefinition phase, both the

mentor and mentee recognize that a shift in developmental tasks has

occurred and that the previous mentorship process is no longer needed

or desired.

Getting out of sync with the developmental phases of the mentoring

relationship could result in a less-than-positive experience for both

mentor and mentee. Although everyone will not experience the phases

at the same rate, it is essential that they go through all of them,

and in sequence.

If one accepts the stage theory of mentoring, it is obvious that the

time commitment required precludes this being accomplished in a

single semester. Mentoring is not a short-term relationship. It does

not fit the higher education model of taking a series of courses with

different professors if the expectation is for all faculty to mentor

all students. One course in one semester does not provide sufficient

time to move through the total process.

It is, however, reasonable to expect that if the mentor team members

are given the responsibility for teaching entry-level required

courses, then they may begin to establish a relationship with future

mentees early in the students' academic careers. This would be

accomplished, in part, through active listening and questioning that

establishes a psychological climate of trust. This lays the

foundation for a more engaging mentoring relationship. Without this

kind of connection, the likelihood of a meaningful mentor-mentee

experience is limited.

Although mentoring relationships evolve over an extended period of

time, Advising can be effective in the short-term because the

emphasis is more on information than on relationship and nurturing.

On the other hand, if the team members chosen to be mentors are given

the companion assignment of department advisers, they would have a

better chance of getting to know students both in and out of the

classroom. This would allow them to cultivate relationships further

and continue building a foundation of trust. Advising may be

transformed into mentoring. An additional benefit to this team

approach is that students would get some of their needs met through

the department mentor - for example, advising, career planning, and

even some counseling needs - rather than having to seek out help from

strangers located across the community.


Good mentoring is a distinctive and powerful process that enhances

intellectual, professional, and personal development through a

special relationship characterized by highly emotional and often

passionate interactions between the mentor and mentee. Although we

can assume that all professors in higher education engage in some

level of instructional activity, it cannot be concluded that all are

actively involved in mentoring, nor should they be. The complete

mentor role does not fit all individuals: some faculty are less

inclined toward developing close relationships with students and with

nurturing the students' development. Not all faculty are capable of

or willing to take on this role and if required to do so would be

inadequate or "incomplete" mentors. That is why the faculty team

concepts has the promise of improving the quality of education. If

only faculty who are well matched to this role become the team

mentors, students will be better served.

Even if all professors are not mentors, understanding the role of the

complete mentor can be a template for the good instructor. The

essence of mentoring is grounded in the concept of one-on-one

teaching. If one is engaged in mentoring, one is engaged in teaching.

Thus, in addition to having the responsibility of mentoring students,

the team mentor could also be asked to share his or her expertise

regarding the mentor role with colleagues. The function of the

effective mentor, which include building a relationship, providing

information, being facilitative and challenging, serving as a role

model, and co-constructing a vision, are not far removed from what

good teachers do. If one also examines the role of a skillful

instructor, it will become clear that there is high correlation

between the two roles (Brookfield, 1990, 1995; Daloz, 1986).

Regardless of the academic discipline or subject, the instructional

process can be enhanced by understanding and incorporating aspects of

the complete mentor role.

Instructors as mentors, according to Daloz (1998), provide a balance

of support and challenge such that our learners feel safe to move.

From ancient times to contemporary life, mentors have challenged

students to have a vision that places their journey in a larger

context and invokes purpose in their lives. Mentoring is a special

role that should only be assigned to professors who embrace it.

Mentors support their students, challenge their students, and help

their students construct a vision to further their educational

journey. Complete mentors work in a truly responsive and interactive

way with learners, which allows for a profound affirmation of both

teaching and learning in the higher education environment. The

faculty team model would permit the mentor-mentee relationship to



Brookfield, S.D. (1990). The skillful teacher. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Cohen, N. H. (1995a). Mentoring adult learners: A guide for educators and

trainers. Malabar, FL: Kriger.

Daloz, L.A. (1986) Effective teaching and mentoring. Ssan Francisco:


Daloz, L.A. (1998) Mentorship. In M.W. Gallbraith (Ed).), Adult learning

methods (2nd ed. Malabar, FL: Krieger

Kram, K.E. (1985) Mentoring at work: Developmental relationships in

organizational life. Glenview, IL. Scott, Foresman.