Clues to Avoid Premature Match Closures
This four presentations are focused on philosophical and ethical questions related to mentoring field. Keller & Reneé Spencer from US and Giovanni Aresi from Italy will talk about match closures from two different perspectives. On top of that, Anna Sanchez from Spain will focus on a theoretical framework for mentoring projects.
Does the perfect match really exist? Keys to effective social mentoring – Anna Sánchez
This article undertakes a systematic review of the scientific literature in order to examine the impact of mentoring on people at risk of social exclusion. The analysis shows the existence of an extensive body of research that provides empirical evidence about the benefits of mentoring programmes in terms of the inclusion vulnerable groups, and warns about the use of methodologies that prevent them from being evaluated correctly. In this regard, it demonstrates the risks of using experimental designs whose methods can ignore the causes that lead to the emergence of satisfactory mentoring relations. Finally, the article identifies factors and types of practice associated with effective programmes which, during the last 10 years of research and activity, have been demonstrated to improve the duration and quality of relations between mentor and mentee. Among others, it examines the functioning of the sex-gender systems during the relationship and the effect of both individuals’ ethic and cultural differences on the results expected from mentoring programmes. The findings have important implications for taking normative decisions that can lead to a successful match. The empirical evidence demonstrates that between a third and a half of mentoring partnerships end prematurely, sometimes even before the end of the period established by the programme.
Understanding and Addressing Match Closures in Formal Youth Mentoring – Thomas E. Keller and Renée Spencer
Relationships established through formal youth mentoring programs can have positive effects on youth development in academic, social, emotional, and behavioral domains. However, a substantial proportion of mentoring relationships end prematurely, before reaching program expectations for duration. Early ending relationships are associated with less positive, or even negative, outcomes for youth mentees. Even for longer-lasting relationships, the process of ending a match can be difficult and painful. Depending on the timing and circumstances, termination of a relationship can result in participants feeling disappointment, frustration, sadness, or guilt.
This workshop will share findings and discuss practice implications based on a study investigating the development and duration of formal mentoring relationships, with a particular emphasis on understanding premature match closures. Questions addressed in the workshop include: Why did matches end? Which factors predicted match endings? How were match endings handled? What effects did match endings have on mentees?
The mixed-method study employed prospective and retrospective designs to investigate mentoring relationships in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) community-based mentoring program in the United States. In this program, mentor-mentee pairs initially commit to meeting for at least one year, although the program aims for longer-lasting matches. Adults volunteering to become mentors in four BBBS agencies were recruited and assessed for a variety of factors expected to be associated with relational success. When these mentors were proposed for specific matches, the youth mentee and parent/guardian were recruited and also completed baseline surveys prior to matching. Matches with all parties consenting to the study (n=356) were followed prospectively for at least 15 months.
When matches ended, the mentor, mentee, parent/guardian (PG), and BBBS match support specialist (MSS) completed retrospective surveys regarding their experiences in the program and the circumstances of the match closure. In addition, a sub-sample of closed matches (n=36) was selected for in-depth examination, with the mentor, PG, and MSS participating in semi-structured qualitative interviews to elicit each person’s perceptions of how the mentoring relationship developed and why it ended. In addition, program case notes were obtained from the agencies.
Analyses of the data have been informed by a systemic model of the youth mentoring intervention accounting for the perspectives and contributions of all participants (i.e., mentor, mentee, PG, MSS) to understand why matches ended, how they ended, whether endings could have been anticipated, and how endings affected mentees. The workshop will present findings from descriptive, predictive, and thematic analyses addressing these questions. For example, analyses have shown that initial expectations going into matches predict their duration; tensions in relationships among adults in the system (mentor, PG, MSS) can undermine a match as can lack of sensitivity to social class differences; relatively few matches end with a formal closure process; program staff rarely support participants in managing closure; and lack of communication about closure can leave mentees with lingering uncertainty and confusion. The workshop will include facilitated discussion of the implications of such findings for program practices and offer recommendations for more effectively preventing and managing mentoring relationship endings.
Predictors of mentoring relationship quality and mentors’ intention to stay on the program – Giovanni Aresi
Despite the quality of the mentoring relationship is key to the effectiveness of mentoring, our understanding of what contributes to relationship quality is limited to individual or micro-social-level factors (e.g., mentors’ and mentees’ personal histories). Factors related to the mentoring programme and implementation settings (i.e., schools ) still understudied.
Another key issue for mentoring is to keep volunteers engaged to the programme over time. Having developed a close bond with their mentees may represent an important contribution to mentors’ positive experience with the programme, thus motivating them to continue mentoring. However, theory and research from the volunteerism literature suggest that the relationship closeness – programme continuation connection may be indirect, and at least in part mediated by perceptions of having a successful mentoring experience and a sense of fulfilment (i.e., satisfaction with the relationship).
This study aimed to examine programme and contextual factors associated with mentoring relationship closeness (RC), and how RC in turn is related to mentors’ intention to stay on the programme in the future and their satisfaction with the relationship.
The present study was conducted in collaboration with the Società Umanitaria’s ‘Programma Mentore’. This is a school-based mentoring programme based in four cities in Italy (Milan, Trento, Rome and Naples). Mentors are matched with primary and secondary school children selected by teachers for being at risk of poor academic, behavioural, or health outcomes. During one-hour weekly meetings, mentors provide motivational and socio-emotional support to their mentees.
A survey was completed by 103 mentors. Measures were drawn from the Match Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ) and included perceptions of perceived programme and teacher support, and adequacy of mentoring session setting (i.e., the room where they meet), relationship closeness, satisfaction with the relationship, and intention to continue mentoring in the future. Path analyses were used to investigate predictors of relationship affective quality and intention to continue mentoring in accordance with the hypothesized conceptual model.
Path analyses evidenced that the model had an excellent fit to the data. Analyses demonstrated that mentor-reported relationship closeness was associated in a positive manner with perceived programme
support and the degree of adequacy of session setting, though teacher support was not. Results also revealed that mentors’ satisfaction with the relationship partially mediated the connection between relationship closeness and volunteers’ intentions to stay on the programme in the future.
Results of this study: 1) remark the importance of providing ongoing support for mentors and a suitable setting for mentoring sessions to foster the forge of stronger bonds with their mentees; and 2) confirm and extend those of previous studies both in the mentoring and the general volunteer literature on the importance of volunteers’ sense of fulfilment and sense-making of their work in determining their commitment to the programme and participation over time.