Theories of Mentoring

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Psychologists and educators have developed various theories of mentoring based academic research, one-on-one mentoring relationships, and experiences in the classroom. The theory a mentor chooses can depend on the needs of his mentee. Different mentees may respond to different approaches with varied levels of success.


GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap-Up. The GROW method of mentoring revolves around structured, in-person conversations in four parts. In the "goal" portion of the conversation, the mentor and mentee decide upon a few clear goals to achieve within the confines of the mentoring session. In the "reality" portion of the conversation, the mentor and mentee brainstorm together and come up with specific ideas about the topic at hand. In the "options" portion of the conversation, the mentor guides the mentee and creates a list of everything she thinks the mentee can achieve. In the "wrap-up" portion of the conversation, the mentee and mentor delineate the appropriate next actions and create a time-specific plan for the mentee to carry out those actions. The two also discuss how to overcome potential roadblocks along the way.

Self-Organized Learning

Professors at Brunel University's Centre for the Study of Human learning developed Self-Organized Learning (SOL), a theory focused on the process of learning itself rather than specific academic knowledge. The SOL theory of mentoring borrows elements of the Humanistic, Cognitive and Behavioral schools of Psychology. SOL mentors expect mentees to take an active role in their own growth process, and assume that each mentee knows himself and understands how he learns best. Mentees define their own goals, develop and execute strategies for success and evaluate their own performance. Mentors introduce Kelly's Repertory Grid as a method of identifying self-created limitations. SOL mentees sign a Personal Learning Contract (PLC) that includes a purpose, strategy, outcome, outcome measures and review. The PLC's scientific approach to learning has its roots in Behavioral Psychology.

Developmental Alliance Mentoring

The Developmental Alliance (DA) theory of mentoring frames mentorship as a process that involves three parties: the mentor, the mentee and the larger organisation sponsoring mentorship. Because the sponsoring organisation will benefit from the mentee's success, all three parties have the same goals and the emotional distance between them is equal. Critics of this theory warn that, should the mentee fail in his duties to the sponsoring organisation -- be it an employer or a school -- that organisation will no longer have the same interest in the mentee's success. Likewise, if a mentor becomes too close to a mentee, he may act in the best's interests of the mentee alone instead of in the best interests of all three parties.

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