Mentoring in a Networked Environment

Here is my response to George’s post on Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Hi George, I have been involved in Mentoring programs for years, have been a mentor in a professional mentoring program for a year, and am still providing mentoring within my organisation.  I also found mentoring very effective in nurturing future leaders.

I have however found some challenges with mentoring in a networked learning environment.  Mentoring does require the setting up of personal goals and personal learning and action plans in order for the mentoring to be “effective”. This should normally be aligned with the personal vision and mission of the mentee, and in the case of corporate business environment, an alignment with the corporate vision and mission, if ever possible is expected or required.  So, in theory, mentoring works best with the collaboration of mentors and mentees, in both achieving the learning and performance goals negotiated and agreed upon in the mentoring process.  However, in a networked learning environment where learner autonomy could be more important than anything else, it would be necessary to make the necessary adjustment in the mentoring relationship that would be based on the mentee’s needs, rather than alignment with any corporate goals or vision, as that might intervene or jeopardize with the personal goals of the mentees.  So, mentoring may be more effective in achieving personal learning goals rather than organisational goals.

Also, the matching of mentors and mentees is a critical factor which could determine the success of a mentoring program, as the relationship established between the mentor and mentee would greatly impact on the outcome of the mentoring.  Personal learning style, personality of the mentors and mentees would also be important consideration in the mentoring matching.

The use of Web 2.0 and social networks could be important platforms for e-mentoring be designed and implemented.  There are also implications such as the skills and literacy gaps between the mentors and mentees.  The concept of zone of proximal development is important here.

Would mentoring be more successful and sustainable under a group (organisation) or networked learning environment?  How would one ensure that such a mentoring program could deliver the outcome expected by the mentee?

More researches may be necessary to understand the impact and implications of e-mentoring in social networks and online education and learning.

John

9 thoughts on “Mentoring in a Networked Environment

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mentoring in a Networked Environment | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog -- Topsy.com

  2. Mentoring in a network environment means facilitating an individual to a point when the mentor is no longer needed – taking the mentee from being dependent to independent, to interdependent. A mentor should guide the mentee in finding additional nodes (both human and nonhuman devices) that aid personal learning. If a mentor and mentee are working within the same organization, which would take precedent, personal or “shared”, organizational mission or vision statement? “Mentoring” someone towards a mission or vision of an organization seems like brainwashing. It’s all about working towards personal goals while attending the need for earning a living.

    “…in a networked learning environment where learner autonomy could be more important than anything else…”

    If one agrees that a connective community involves what Downes has referred to as being autonomous, open, diverse, and interactive, I would argue that one is no more important than any other. They all influence each other to a point that if I am not open, or willing to accept other perspectives, or am not interactive, then I can’t really be autonomous, for example. A mentor should coach a mentee to be all of these things. If a mentee is being honest about learning in a connective community and the organization’s mission and vision align to that of the mentee’s, then it would seem that this would be more relevant than simply the mentor/mentee relationship. If a mentee is still at a dependent stage, then the individual is not quite ready to reap the benefits of participating in a connective community.

  3. Pingback: Shifting from mentoring to “unmentoring” « Collaborative Understandings

  4. Hi Benjamin,
    “Mentoring” someone towards a mission or vision of an organization seems like brainwashing. It’s all about working towards personal goals while attending the need for earning a living. Yes, if one could strike a balance between personal and organisation’s goals, then that might lead to better satisfaction, as the person could achieve both goals without sacrificing one’s vision. This sounds simple in principle, but given the complexity nature of environment like a change in the mentee’s study, career, or working culture, working relationships with the immediate report, a change in organisation’s goals and strategies, or a shift or change in the mentee’s learning goals would all require a paradigm shift in mentoring – where mentees need to adapt, and be agile, in order to thrive in a changing ecology.

    “If one agrees that a connective community involves what Downes has referred to as being autonomous, open, diverse, and interactive, I would argue that one is no more important than any other. They all influence each other to a point that if I am not open, or willing to accept other perspectives, or am not interactive, then I can’t really be autonomous, for example.” I think this is the core of the “social/organisation/network learning” that we all would like to explore further. I think if we do agree to a certain extent on the properties of ideal networks – that would allow for individual autonomy, openness, diversity of opinions, and interactivity, then in principle, networked learning would be ideal for personal learning, if one could leverage its potential. Our research on the Ideals and Reality of participating in MOOC has revealed the tensions amongst those 4, in particular, the autonomy in the case of MOOC or even MOON (Massive open online networks). The more autonomous an individual learner is, the more the learner would like to exercise his perceived control, which would or could lead to a dissonance or resistance to perceived power over the learner’s learning. This could both be a merit and demerit to the learning situation, as on one hand, this could challenge the learner (mentee) to be more self aware of the personal strengths and weakness, and the need of personal development in response to personal and/or organisational changes. On the other hand, this could also lead to frustrations by the learner (mentee) if she or he doesn’t feel a sense of control over the learning (like what you mentioned, the brainwashing, or could be even worse, if the mentee feels the pressure of manipulation by others, in order to achieve some goals set by others which are too ambitious or difficult to achieve). There are also risks involved when learner (mentee) doesn’t feel secure when exposes to an open learning environment or networks, where unwarranted criticisms, cyber-bullying and privacy issues all hinder the mentoring process, and may weaken the mentee’s confidence. Failures in e-connections may also be an issue for many learner mentees, that may lead them to continue to lurk, rather than active participation in networks.

    “If a mentee is being honest about learning in a connective community and the organization’s mission and vision align to that of the mentee’s, then it would seem that this would be more relevant than simply the mentor/mentee relationship.” I agree with your views, though the mentor/mentee relationship could be extended to the ” mentor” being “members” or “experts” in the Community (i.e. a mentee could have many mentors) This is a value judgment, and so if we are to put learner or mentee first, would we put the community (organisation) as a way to serve the mentee? Or if we think the Community or the organisation come before the mentor & learner (mentee), then the mentoring relationship could just be a subsidiary to the organisation or Community. Would there still be a tension between individuals and Community (or organisation) in terms of needs?

    I have drawn up a needs diagram http://www.slideshare.net/JohnMak1/needs-and-learning-under-an-organisation-setting-john-mak. and the concept of personal autonomy in the network here http://www.slideshare.net/suifaijohnmak/networked-learning11

    My experience in mentoring also revealed that relationship and communication amongst mentors and mentees would be important success factors. Also, it would be imperative to cater for the (changing) needs of the mentees, throughout the mentoring process. The mentoring process could be further enhanced with the use of Web 2.0 tools, though once the mentee has mastered the skills and literacies required to learn (i.e. metacognitive learning skills and critical literacy & thinking) within organisation, or learning institutions, or community or networks, then the mentor could/should recede (i.e. step out) from the mentoring/support gradually in order to enable the mentee to fully develop his/her capacity of learning and performance from dependency to independency, and perhaps inter-dependency in networks and community.

    So e-Mentoring (individually with a mentor-mentee, or a community of mentors with community of mentees) could also be a life-long learning growth process and approach rather than a one off mentoring program in order to benefit both mentors and learners (mentees). These all are context driven, and so mentoring could be best achieved with a combination of one-on-one mentoring, a Community of Practice or Learners, or a Network of Practice and Practitioners etc.

    We still need a pedagogy for e-mentoring to emerge from networked learning. Would it embrace participation, engagement, communication, collaborative and appreciative inquiry, discourse? And more….. Here is an interesting post on pedagogy http://fno.org/sept03/pedagogy.html

    Would you like to share your thoughts on pedagogy?

    Many thanks for your deep insights. A gift for me indeed.
    John

  5. Pingback: Shifting from mentoring to "unmentoring" » Collaborative Understandings

  6. Pingback: #Change11 Is mentoring the way to Slow Learning? | Learner Weblog

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