Role and tasks for mentor in the SP4CE environment

Mentor role is very important in a learning process. The roles of mentors are teaching assistants, social connectedness initiators, and technical supporters that emulate the roles of faculty within eLearning environments. As teaching assistants mentors provide students with an extra help toward clarifying and comprehending course contents. As social connectedness initiators, mentors help students develop an eLearning connectedness. As technical supporters, mentors help students solve technological problems.

In SP4CE project the teacher helping the students is called ‘mentor’. This role of the teacher /mentor is different from the classical teacher role, in this process the teacher is guiding the team through a series of processes to define and reach a common goal. This common goal is defined by the team itself in the early stage of the course, later on the teacher supports the whole process that will guide the team to the goal. The teacher /mentor will guide the students/learners in choosing their roles and promoting mutual support among the learners. The roles in the student team are based on personal vocation and ambition of each student in the team.

In this approach the teacher is rather a facilitator to the group/team than a traditional teacher. The team’s creative and innovative ideas will help to find solutions for the problems raised by the company in question. Therefore the teacher should be only a supportive “catalyser” and group moderator and not the leader of the group. Trainer, facilitator, advisor, and mentor – these roles should be in the foreground when dealing with the team.

To fulfil the role of mentor the following guideline is proposed. It outlines major responsibilities of mentor roles and their contributions toward removing learning barriers, meeting student needs and enhancing teaching and learning effectiveness. It may be adopted by mentors as a fundamental job-aid in learning environment, so that they would have a clearer idea about how to do and how to do in practicing mentoring. Guideline covers three aspects of mentor role, describes their responsibilities and contributions:

1.Assisting instruction

– Responsibilities

– Respond to students questions concerning curse contents

– Monitor discussions

– Provide students information for better learning effectiveness

– Clarify grading criteria

– Keep tracks of students attendance

– Post routine class announcements

– Contributions

– Provide quick responses

– Improve the quality of instructions

2.Initiating social connectedness

– Responsibilities

– Provide students needed information

– Guide students to their learning goals

– Provide extra help

– Respond to students concerns

– Contributions

– Increase students support structure

– Increase students’ level of comfort

– Increase of quality of instruction and learning

3.Providing technical support

– Responsibilities

– Coach students on fundamental online skills

– Facilitate students in solving online access problems

– Provide necessary information concerning course website navigation

– Help students in locating specific resources within learning environment

– Upload or download course materials

– Post messages onto discussion boards

– Refer students to other resources when technological problems are not able to be solved by the faculty and mentors

– Contributions

– Reduce technical difficulty concerns

– Increase students support structure

– Increase students level of comfort

– Increase eLearning effectiveness and efficiency


What should  mentor should do / say?

Here is a short and basic list of proposed behaviour. The main idea is to allow creativity and cooperation to get as far as possible in the team’s work and to be positive as much as possible.  Using “and” as a starter of your sentence is adding things to the original idea and developing it further, while using “but” is followed by critical, negative remarks and not resulting in development. Therefore we suggest to use “and” instead of “but” when starting a remark, also the attitude should focus on the further  development of the idea instead of criticising. Using “how” as question-start also enables more support and development, while “why” is looking for the causes or concentrating on the problem and driving attention away from the solution.

During the mentoring activities facilitators should:

  • give positive feedbacks,
  • encourage all team members to give their ideas,
  • encourage discussion on ideas,
  • encourage team members to explain their ideas,
  • use “and” and “how” as a starter of their sentences,
  • focus on the solutions,
  • summarize conclusions, clarify important points,
  • consider all comments seriously and evaluate them fairly.

Here is the list of “not to do”-s, also short and basic. The main idea is to limit negative comments and behaviours in the team and also from the side of the mentor/teacher. ‘No’-s and ‘but’-s and negative critics do not allow the solutions to be developed, therefore please try to eliminate those in the team (and also from the teacher’s side). Also “why” is rather focusing on the reasons and not that much on the solution, so please also try to avoid questions starting with “why”.

What a group facilitator should NOT do / say and what is considered as improper behaviour of mentor:

  • do not make judgements,
  • avoid criticism and negative remarks, be constructive instead,
  • don’t let one member to dominate the discussion,
  • don’t let yourself to dominate the discussion,
  • don’t let one point of view to rule the others,
  • control your own preconceptions, try to forget them,
  • avoid using “but” and “why” as a starter of sentences in the group,
  • avoid “yes” or “no” questions, try open-ended questions instead.