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Creating a Mentor Training Program for Transformational Mentoring in the University of Minnesota Leadership Programs

Creating a Mentor Training Program for Transformational Mentoring in the University of Minnesota Leadership Programs

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Published by Alex Fink

Co-Authored with Ron Frazzini and John Speer.

Presented to the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute's 2012 Annual Conference.

More information on Transformational Mentoring at http://www.transformationalmentoring.org

Co-Authored with Ron Frazzini and John Speer.

Presented to the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute's 2012 Annual Conference.

More information on Transformational Mentoring at http://www.transformationalmentoring.org

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Alex Fink on Nov 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Creating  a  Mentor  Training  Program  for  Transformational  Mentoring  in  the  University  of   Minnesota  Leadership  Programs  

Alexander Fink, Ph.D. Student, Ronald Frazzini, Ph.D., and John Speer University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Abstract Based on the concepts and preliminary data presented in the University of New Mexico’s 2011 Mentoring Conference paper Transformational Mentoring in University of Minnesota CoCurricular Leadership Programs, data from recent surveys of mentors and students were gathered and evaluated. Survey questions were designed to gather information on what successful mentors do, and what specific processes were applied in their developmental and transformative mentoring relationships. As in our initial exploration, the framework for study incorporated Sharon Daloz Parks’ three broad developmental concepts: “(1) becoming critically aware of one’s own composing of reality, (2) self-consciously participating in an ongoing dialogue toward truth, and (3) cultivating a capacity to respond—to act—in ways that are satisfying and just” (Parks, 2000, p. 6). The survey participants represent three co-curricular leadership programs: First Year Leadership Institute, LeaderQuest and the Tom Burnett Leadership Program. These programs for leadership development are open to freshmen through seniors in all academic departments. Each participant has a mentor selected from senior students, faculty, staff and community, representing a variety of professions for interdisciplinary interaction. There is some training that is based on the experience level of the respective mentors, but the process for mentor preparation has considerable room for improvement. Our paper presents results from the new survey, including next steps for research and suggestions for training transformational mentors. Thoughts will be presented on the creation of a concise training program to help all mentors become effective in establishing a transformational experience, and achieving Parks’ goals. Introduction A paper delivered by Ronald Frazzini and Alex Fink at the University of New Mexico 2011 Mentoring Conference outlined a tentative distinction between two types of mentoring referred to as transformational mentoring and informational mentoring. Examining mentoring program evaluation data from several programs at the University of Minnesota, characteristics of transformational mentoring were outlined and contrasted to informational mentoring. These characteristics were mapped on to Sharon Daloz Parks’ three concepts of mentoring: (1) becoming critically aware of one’s own composing of reality, (2) self-consciously participating in an ongoing dialogue toward truth, and (3) cultivating a capacity to respond—to act—in ways that are satisfying and just” (Parks, 2000, p. 6). It was determined that evaluation data showed a preliminary difference between the type of mentoring program and the corresponding effects on program participants. In the conclusion of that paper, we suggested taking a look at mentoring practices that encourage personal transformation, and further looking toward developing training for mentors that will prepare them to create transformational experiences. Continuing with the work described in Transformational Mentoring in University of Minnesota Co-Curricular Leadership Programs (2011), we created a mentor survey and a student survey that explore the successful mentor’s approach to transformational mentoring. This survey was administered to mentors and students across three co-curricular leadership programs at the University of Minnesota, the First-Year Leadership Institute, LeaderQuest, and the Tom Burnett Advanced Leadership Program. Unique in that they serve different populations and offer a range of mentoring experiences, they include peer mentoring, transformational mentoring, and career 1

coaching. We provide a basic outline of the mentoring components of each of these programs, helping to further distinguish between the emergent concept of transformational mentoring and other, more developed conceptualizations. The intent of this work is to examine training programs already in place, asking whether mentors are prepared to encourage students to “…ask the big questions that awaken critical thought…” (Parks 2000, p. xi). Following the analysis of simple evaluation surveys last year we created new surveys to explore the mentoring process as viewed by both mentor and student. The results point to specific concepts that successful mentors incorporate, and as such, identify components for a more meaningful training experience. Finally, we conclude by proposing elements of a training program for transformational mentoring and suggesting future steps for a research agenda. Developmental Concepts From our almost thirty years experience with LeaderQuest, and as discussed in “Transformational Mentoring in University of Minnesota Co-Curricular Leadership Programs” (Frazzini and Fink, 2011), we recognize Parks’ three developmental concepts as a process. From the first concept of self-awareness to the third concept that encompasses an individual’s ability to be proactive in their quest for identity and meaning, mentoring is vital to a young adult’s ability to develop within this process. Parks calls this “becoming adult” and involves a “...complex process that includes changes in biological, cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual, and moral dimensions.” (Parks 2000, p.13) It is a mentor’s task, then, to provide a framework of guided learning that is cognizant of these changes. It is this transformational learning that is sought in LeaderQuest, and is ancillary to the other programs. J. Mezirow in Learning as transformation (2000), describes transformative learning as
...transforming a problematic frame of reference to make it more dependable in our adult life by generating opinions and interpretations that are more justified. We become critically reflective of those beliefs that become problematic...Transformative learning is a way of problem solving by defining a problem or by redefining or reframing the problem. (p. 20)

He goes on to emphasize that the new formulation and reframing requires “discourse” to fully understand and comprehend the implications. The mentor’s role is not only to help with the “frame of reference” but also to develop the questions and conversation necessary to clarify and solidify new concepts. While the term “spirituality” has religious connotations, the study done in Cultivating the Spirit (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011) researched its broader concept in the lives of college students. It takes on a meaning very close to the results we are seeking in transformational mentoring. For example,
[s]pirituality, as we have defined it, is a multifaceted quality. It involves an active quest for answers to life’s “big questions”; a global worldview that transcends ethnocentrism and egocentrism; a sense of caring and compassion for others coupled with a lifestyle that includes service to others; and a capacity to maintain one’s sense of calm and centeredness, especially in times of stress.” (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011, p. 137)

They point out that very little has been done in the way of understanding spirituality in the college environment, much as we have found in trying to discover a solid basis for transformational mentoring. Intuitively, it would seem that the type of mentoring we seek to apply in our leadership programs has, as its desired outcome, the sense of “spirituality” that is defined in Cultivating the Spirit. Indeed, their story finds that “[s]piritual development is also enhanced…if their professors actively encourage them to explore questions of meaning and purpose.” (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011, p. 10) 2

Consequently, the three concepts of Parks, the need for discourse to examine new concepts from Mezirow, and the development of spirituality that emphasizes equanimity from Astin, Astin and Lindholm lead us to an examination of the basis for transformational mentoring and the training necessary to make it work. Leadership Mentoring Programs Many mentoring programs exist on the university campus, most of which are career or informational-based mentoring. Three co-curricular programs exist in the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, Office of Student Affairs that focus on serving freshmen through seniors in a primarily personal development style of mentoring. These are the programs that form the basis of our study. First-­‐Year  Leadership  Institute   An opportunity for first-year students to “…enhance leadership skills [and] foster intrapersonal, interpersonal, ethical and moral development…”(Co-Curricular, 2012), the First-Year Leadership Institute (FYLI) provides a semester-long leadership development program for up to twenty-five students. It includes weekly meetings for the entire group, a two-day retreat and connection with a mentor. For this program, mentors are selected primarily from the Tom Burnett program, a senior leadership program, and the senior class at large. LeaderQuest   Also a semester-long program, LeaderQuest serves up to thirty sophomore and junior students. Beginning with a two-day retreat that encourages team building within the usually culturally diverse group, the students then gather once a week in a three-hour seminar style meeting focusing on various leadership topics. Students have significant say in what is discussed and meeting content in general. The mentoring component focuses on personal development, and is the strongest transformational mentoring of the three programs. Tom  Burnett  Leadership  Program   Named after Tom Burnett, a 9/11 hero of United Flight 93, the program serves up to fifteen senior students each year. Focusing primarily on career directions, the mentors are chosen with the career in mind and consist of faculty, business or non-profit leaders. Like LeaderQuest, the participants meet for one evening seminar a week to discuss career paths and leadership skills. Study Premise Studying transformational mentoring is a complicated problem, primarily because the three developmental trajectories outlined by Parks are difficult to measure. As the purpose of the study is to determine important requirements for a mentor training program, we developed a survey aimed at uncovering specific mentoring practices that moved students toward transformational experiences. From our past work, transformational mentoring is “[d]istinct from informational mentoring, [and] is not focused on the transmission of advice, rather it is focused on providing students with opportunities to change, to grow, to transform themselves and their relationships with others.” (Frazzini and Fink, 2011) Basis  and  Description  of  the  Surveys   A previous analysis of evaluation data from the above leadership development programs recognized anecdotal differences between the experiences and outcomes of students participating in informational and transformational mentoring opportunities. This data revealed a noticeable distinction in the types of learning that occurred in the relationship and students’ overall experience of mentoring. Many students in the transformational mentoring program reported experiences that altered the course of their lives in significant ways (choosing a different career path, changing a belief system, etc.). These students also seemed to report more positive 3

experiences generally with mentoring than students in the informational mentoring programs we compared them to. However, this research was primarily anecdotal and drawn from basic program evaluation data, so it served primarily to illustrate a distinction between informational and transformational mentoring. It did not provide much sense of which practices were used by transformational mentors, whether this type of mentoring even has specific practices, whether these practices can be learned through training, or what elements might constitute an effective training. To begin to address this gap in knowledge, we developed surveys for mentors and program participants for each of the three programs outlined above. We developed separate surveys for mentors and program participants, with the same surveys administered across all three leadership programs (see Appendix A - Mentor Survey and Appendix B - Student Survey). Surveys asked a range of questions, seeking primarily to ascertain elements of practice or the personal characteristics possessed by successful mentors. The goal of ascertaining these elements and characteristics is to determine what kinds of knowledge and practices are necessary parts of a mentor training curriculum for transformational mentoring. Methodology   Surveys were administered to past participants of the First-Year Leadership Institute, LeaderQuest, and Tom Burnett Advanced Leadership Programs. Contact information was unavailable for all years of the programs, so participants were contacted to participate in the survey from the years listed in Table 1. First-Year LeaderQuest Tom Burnett Leadership Institute Leadership Program
Students Mentors 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 2007, 2010, 2011 2006, 2010, 2011 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, intermittent data combined data from 2008 earlier from 2008 and 2009 Table 1: Years contacted for participation in surveys

Students and mentors were contacted separately and invited to participate in the survey, conducted online using the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development’s online survey tool. Students were offered the option to participate in a raffle of a gift card for participation in the survey. Study Results The results presented emphasize several of the questions we felt were pertinent to the concept of “transformation” and how we might use the results to define a concise and meaningful training program for mentors. Mentor  Concerns   The mentor survey provided one of the more important findings indicating specific needs of the mentors for greater success in their efforts. Given several choices of actions that could be taken to better the mentoring experience and success rate, mentors were asked to select those they thought would best help them. Two choices for each mentor are represented in Figure 1, and indicate a need for added structure and training.


Number  of  Mentors  

8   6   4   2   0   More   Training   List  of   Outcomes   Well   Defined   Process   Mentor   mee>ngs  

Item  2     Item  1  

Desired  Ac?vity  

Figure 1: Training Activities to Improve Mentoring

The request for “more training” is clear, but part of that needs to be a better definition of what the mentoring process is and some well defined outcomes that mentors should seek during the semester-long formal program. A set of outcomes is given in a following section on proposed training program elements. A need for a mid-point meeting for the mentors is also important, and allows them to voice problems and share successes, all to the benefit of other mentors. Past experience with meetings of this type has been highly successful. Responding  To  the  Mentors’  Needs   In defining a mentor training program, we use anecdotal evidence from our survey. Over the next several years, we will have additional results on the more important questions, showing the effects of implementing this proposed training. The proposed elements incorporate Parks’ three concepts and comprise a significantly expanded mentor training program including mid term mentor meetings. A primary focus of this training regimen is process oriented in response to the mentors’ need for a more detailed specific step by step method of mentoring. The initial step is providing the mentors with the well defined outcomes they asked for, followed by a list of suggested tools and actions which survey data indicate may foster a transformational experience for the student. Proposed Training Program Elements Desired  Outcomes  from  Transformational  Mentoring   Students report that they have had a transformational experience Although intuitively obvious, the overall objective of this type of mentoring is to help the student attain a level of new awareness that fits with Parks’ developmental concepts. Students develop a process for finding answers and direction on their own Parks’ three concepts embody becoming critically aware, self-conscious participation in growth seeking, and authentic action based on individual values and beliefs discovered in the first two efforts. This is an exercise in not only self-awareness but also self-guidance. The importance of a process for self-guidance cannot be overstated as 100% of the students who had a processoriented mentoring style had transformational experiences. Anecdotally, students report a lack of focus on the decision-making process in their educational experience. The mentoring experience must provide overall help and direction Students in the survey who reported a transformational experience scored higher (4.33 out of 5) on a measure of overall help and direction provided by the mentoring interaction. Key  elements  for  inclusion  in  transformational  mentoring   Our focus is mentor training but this effort must include making the mentors aware of the need to insure that the student is engaged in the activities that survey data show enhance the probability


of a transformational experience. The following five elements will be a critical part of mentor training so that the mentors realize the powerful connection these elements have toward helping create the potential for a transformational experience. Mentors and students must prepare for meetings Results indicated that student preparation for a meeting with the mentor provides a greatly improved possibility for success. Two proactive meeting preparation items were making a list of questions and topics and emailing questions to the mentor. Post meeting help was provided by reflecting on the previous meetings’ conversations in preparation for the next meeting. Figure 2 shows each of the preparation activities in relation to the perceived help that resulted from the program, and indicates a strong improvement in overall success.
Number  of  Students   6   4   2   0   1   2   3   4   5   Email   Ques>ons   Making  a   List   Reflec>ng   Prepara?on   Type   Other/ None   15   Number  of  Students   10   5   0   Mentor  Prepared   Not  prepared   Yes   Transforma?onal?  


Student  Ra?ng  of  Quality  of  Help   5  =  Best  

Figure 2. Perceived Help from Program Based on the Preparations for Mentor Meetings

Figure 3. The Effect of Mentor Preparation on a Transformational Experience

As shown in Figure 3, preparation for the meetings is not just a student responsibility since the percentage of students who reported having a transformational experience significantly changes when their mentors had prepared prior to meetings. The mentor’s style should include a process-oriented element in which the mentor helps the student to develop a process for finding answers on their own Although the sample size is small, 100% of the students whose mentors used a process oriented style had transformational experiences. Not only self-awareness but also self-guidance are required to attain the three elements noted in Parks’ measures of transformation, and are recognized as desired outcomes from the mentoring effort. Central to this effort is helping the student find or develop a method for discovering answers on their own. Students and mentors must meet frequently Based on anecdotal evidence from the survey, there is support for a fairly high frequency of mentor meetings. Justified by the intuitive need for mentor and student to know each other and develop trust in the relationship, it is, however, limited by time constraints of both parties. We have found through the many years of the LeaderQuest program that by setting aside a planned amount of time on a bi-weekly basis, or ideally on a weekly basis, the partnership has a significantly better chance of success as indicated in the results from the survey. It simply increases the engagement that is fundamental to success and is partially reflected in the survey results. Figure 4 anecdotally shows an improvement in perceived self-awareness with an increased number of meetings, while Figure 5 indicates more students had a transformational experience with bi-weekly meetings. Those indicating “no” had predominately monthly meetings, but there is simply not enough data to make a judgment on the question of weekly versus biweekly for maximizing the potential for transformation. Increased frequency of the mentor meetings, however, provides better results. 6

Number  of  Students  

6   4   2   0   1   2   3   Once   Monthly   Bi-­‐weekly   Weekly  

10   Number  of  Students  


Yes   No  


4   5   Student  Ra?ng  of  Change  in  Self  Awareness   5  =  Most  


Figure 4. The effect of meeting frequency on perceived self-awareness

Figure 5. Perceived transformational experience with meeting frequency

Students must enter into the mentoring interaction looking for the answers to “Big Questions” or quickly adopt this objective As shown in Figure 6, students who were already looking for the answers to life's big questions before entering into the mentoring relationship had a much higher rate of transformational experience than those who had not yet begun to seek these answers in a conscious way. It would seem that these students had already considered these questions, and were consciously prepared to continue the discussion.
Number  of  Students   Number  of  Students   Transforma?onal?   15   10   5   0   No   Yes   15   10   5   0   Student  Choice   Not  Student   of  Topics   Choice   No   Yes   Transforma?onal?  

Seeking  Answers   Not  Seeking  Answers  

Figure 6. Change in Transformational Experience for Student Seeking Answers

Figure 7. Transformational Experience Depending on Student’s Choice of Topic.

Students must choose the topics for discussion The students surveyed that reported a higher rate of transformational experiences were the students who chose the topics for discussion as shown in Figure 7. This is further evidence of the importance of a blossoming recognition of the need to exert self-guidance. As self-awareness grows, the student determines what is missing in their personal portfolio of knowledge and should exert choice in the topics for discussion. This ability and desire to choose may signal transformative efforts recalling Parks’ “ongoing dialogue toward truth”. Training Program Elements Based on our results and evaluations, certain tools for a transformational mentoring training program can be proposed to hand out during training sessions.


Set  of  things  to  utilize  during  transformational  mentoring  
• • • • • • • • • Suggested discussion starters Student goal development survey Strengths finder and other selfassessment tools Mentoring contract form List agreed upon meeting frequency List goals for mentoring interaction • Discuss confidentiality and the voluntary nature of the interaction • Discuss the desired outcomes from transformational mentoring • Review the definition of transformational mentoring • Discuss the desire to look at “Big Questions” • Take strengths finder, look for shared strengths with student • Avoid giving answers to the students • Remember the objective is for them to find the answers for themselves

Mentor  preparation  
Research the student (Facebook, U of M website, Google, You Tube) Read and note student information on LQ application and mentor form Look for clues to “Big Questions” values, beliefs, or leadership definition Preparing a list of questions prior to each meeting E-mailing the list of questions to the mentor prior to meeting Writing and reflecting on topics of discussion after each meeting Researching your student Attending the opening ceremony Meeting frequently with your mentee

Student  preparation  that  will  be  suggested  
• • • • Sharing a list of “Big Questions” with the mentor • Being prepared for a discussion of deep issues with the mentor

Elements  of  the  mentoring  experience  
• • • • Attending the mid-term mentor meeting • Attending at least one weekly student meeting • Attending the closing ceremony

Conclusion While the results remain anecdotal primarily due to sample size, there are indicators that allow us to craft a training program that fulfills requests from many mentors for more structure in the programs. We believe that the tools we have outlined are reasonable and necessary to achieve the transformational experience we and the students seek in their college experience. References Astin, H., & Astin, A. (1996). A Social Change Model of Leadership Development: Guidebook. Los Angeles: University of California Education Research Institute. Astin, A. W., Astin, H. S., & Lindholm, J. A. (2011). Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives. Jossey-Bass. Co-Curricular Leadership Programs. http://www.leadup.umn.edu/first-year/index.html. Referenced June 10, 2012. Frazzini, R., & Fink, A. (2011). “Transformational Mentoring in University of Minnesota CoCurricular Leadership Programs.” University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute Conference, October, 2011. Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Parks, S. D. (2000). Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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