Mentoring has been reported to be on the decline. According to a survey conducted by MENTOR, younger members of Gen Z have shown that they are less likely to have healthy mentoring relationships with an older supportive figure than Millenials. The decline has been partially attributed to the ongoing pandemic that started in 2020. What does this mean? A mentorship gap is on the rise, which comes at a detriment to our students.
An extended support system including a mentor is paramount to support Generation Z as they report record breaking rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, and overall low self esteem. During the pandemic, Generation Z experienced extreme social isolation during some of the most crucial years for their social-emotional development. Because of its focus of building community and communication, mentoring can be seen as a form of aftercare for both the mentee and mentor.
The benefits of mentorship are incomparable. Built around positive communication strategies and consistency, mentorship helps mentees develop healthy social networks, increase self esteem, promotes academic improvement and career readiness skills.
I chatted with ModSchool co-founder and curriculum director Lyndie Dubbs about mentorship and its role in ModSchool’s curriculum.
Q: What are some examples of mentorship in the curriculum?
A:The curriculum is designed with a mentorship model of content delivery in mind. What does this look like during a virtual learning session? One great example is mentoring students through a formal critique, which is integral to Module 4, Transform. First, the project mentor models how to critique student work and provides effective feedback on a sample of student work. The students generate feedback for this piece of sample work, and discuss what makes for effective and ineffective feedback. Then, the mentor establishes the norms for the formal critique (provide useful feedback, speak with compassion, listen with intent). The mentor organizes students into small groups and delegates a student leader for each group that will help keep others focused on the task of critique. Finally, the students go into breakout rooms and take turns presenting their work, giving and receiving feedback. The mentor then has all the students return to the virtual classroom where they debrief on the critique experience in a group discussion. Finally, the students write a reflection of their critique experience, and generate a revision plan. As you can see in this example, the mentor provides parameters and maintains pace and engagement throughout the session while the students actively engage in the learning activity, in this case a formal critique.
Q: What inspired having project mentors instead of teachers?
A: Project based learning is born from John Dewey's experiential learning theory which is often referred to as a "learn-by-doing" model. In experiential or authentic learning environments, students create their own learning pathway through inquiry, research and trial and error. Through these practices, students arrive at deep understandings, and when paired with Design Thinking, they create high quality solutions to complex problems. In order for students to have the freedom to inquire, explore, innovate and transform their ideas into tangible solutions, they need the support of an expert educator who can guide them through these dynamic experiences. Project based learning works best when teachers function as facilitators of experiences, rather than conductors of information. Because of this, we knew we didn't want to use the term "teacher" or "instructor", or anything that suggested a model where an authority figure dispenses information to a subject who receives it. Instead, we wanted a term that implied a nurturing relationship with a professional who offers support and guidance to students as they forge the path of their learning.
We hope this focus and appreciation for mentorship spreads beyond ModSchool. We are proud to employ learning methods that help our students be the best they can. To read more about Lyndie Dubbs – co-founder and curriculum director – and ModSchool’s values and approach to education, go to the about section in our website.