Advisement has received increased attention these past few years in large part due to relationships between performance (meaning retention and graduation rates) and federal funding. Interest in the role of advising at the college level prompted us to examine the state of the state in the world of education through a 70:20:10 lens. Whatever the current impetus, the results of increased advising could and indeed should impact positively on those students. Even better would be an increased focus on mentoring to support learners through the educational journey that eventually leads to employment.
Advising or Mentoring?
Over the years, many institutions of higher learning have “shifted the metaphor” from “advising” to “mentoring,” as this informative piece from Penn State explains:
“In our current historical moment, as we struggle with potential decreases in enrollment, increases in tuition, and a shift toward skills-based programs (Levine and Nidiffer, 1996), we must consider how we can help our students successfully complete programs of study in a timely manner and provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life as well.”
So, “mentoring” implies support that may include but clearly goes beyond traditional academic advising. There’s a couple of areas that are particularly important to the discussion of the evolving role of education these days.
Expanding Access to Expertise Along with Access to Information
As technology has provided us with ever-increasing access to information, the guidance required to effectively sort through and vet that information grows as well. Today’s teachers are needed more than ever to provide the support required to help students become discerning information seekers and decision-makers. Subject matter expertise plays an important role, but mentoring can take students beyond “capable” to “thoughtful.”
Informal Learning, Higher Touch
When we consider the best blend of learning to take today’s students to tomorrow’s world of employment, a very good case can be made for increasing the amount of informal learning that can occur within the mentoring relationship. Just as today’s workplace is seeing an expansion of the role of informal learning, so too should the world of K-16 look beyond the classroom. Today’s collaborative partnerships between the public and the private sector make the time just right to support:
- Students in seeking out these relationships.
- Schools in providing much needed resources.
- Businesses, for investing in their own future.
Role of Technology in More Targeted Mentoring
There are plenty of tools that can support mentoring throughout the educational cycle. Companies like iMentor provide both the platform and the resources to support a volunteer network of mentors supporting students as they make their way through the college search process starting in the first year of high school. csMentorbills itself as an “adaptive college retention program” that helps first year students make the adjustment to college life through a series of targeted videos and regular surveys that both instruct and measure students’ responses to the challenges of college life. Chronus Mentor helps organizations facilitate the mentoring process through built-in workflows, guided engagements, etc.
In all these cases, technology can support the process but is not meant to replace the interactions between students or employees in the mentoring relationship. We can extend the relationships through carefully designed interactions, supporting resources and valuable tracking tools. As Sonia Sotomayer said “. . . a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.”
Visit us at Designs2Learn for more on the role of learning design across the continuum of the educational experience.