#Change11 Is mentoring the way to Slow Learning?

Slow Learning through mentoring and coaching.  Based on Clark’s presentation, and the sage on the side – with mentoring as a way to learn, your performance would improve with the help of a coach.

Mentoring is a perfect model for anyone learning through an apprenticeship program, whether it is traditional apprenticeship or cognitive apprenticeship, I suppose.  I have reflected on mentoring in the networks and communities here.

Is mentoring suitable for everyone?  No, perhaps. Here George Hobson says:

I do not think that a personal learning mentor would be my ideal learning situation. The point of open is just that – open to wherever I want to go, not someone or something else to control.

The constant prodding of a sage on the side would worry me because of both this intrusion as well as manipulation – “stealth mentoring” as Carole McCulloch puts it in her post.

I reckon there is a subtle difference between learning and performance.  There are a few myths in learning and performance:

Myth 1 – People learn best by themselves, but people perform best with others.  Assumption: People who exercise full autonomy in learning would learn best when they have a full sense of control and responsibility, and thus enjoy learning. People who work cooperatively and collaboratively with others would contribute to the group or team’s goals, and would lead to improved group’s performance.

Stephen shares his views on informal learning here:

In the case of informal learning, however, the structure is much looser. People pursue their own objectives in their own way, while at the same time initiating and sustaining an ongoing dialogue with others pursuing similar objectives. Learning and discussion is not structured, but rather, is determined by the needs and interests of the participants. There is no leader; each person participates as they deem appropriate. There are no boundaries; people drift into and out of the conversation as their knowledge and interests change.

The individual performance resulting from mere personal learning could be limited, due to the limited perspectives and capability one has.  There are exceptions, as great scientists like Issac Newton and Albert Einstein developed their theories alone, without resorting to groups or networks.  However, times have changed, and so few people could afford to learn effectively by themselves alone.  Besides, researches have revealed that Wisdom of the Crowds, or Collective Wisdom is superior to individual’s wisdom.  Group and networks perform better than individuals. This is especially the case when working in corporations, or communities, where collective efforts and contribution are valued over individuals.

To me learning and performance must go hand in hand, especially in the corporate world.  In business settings, people are looking for performance, not (necessarily) learning.  So, would that be the challenge?  That’s why we always hear the tyranny of participation!  Performance requires participation, engagement, and most important of all, cooperation and collaboration!  But learning could be personal, and even personal performance don’t necessarily align with group or collective performance.  There are still nuances between personal and group performance.

Myth 2 – People learns best from their mentors. Choosing the best mentors would lead you to career success, for sure!

Assumption: In the case of formal institutions – educational and business organisations, mentoring is commonly practiced, and highly successful leaders have been nurtured through formal mentoring program.

What is the reality?

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 diagramhttp://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/sufaijohnmak/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.


10 thoughts on “#Change11 Is mentoring the way to Slow Learning?

  1. Hi – I agree with the statement ‘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.’ We have been practising this model for 4 years now in our ACFE ementor program.
    The development of eskills for our adult learning centre teachers is based on all of the above. We the ementors (one for each region in Victoria) each provide a ‘safe zone or CoP’ for individual and small group mentoring and we all join together in our ACE network for the wider networked learning. E-champions and E-leaders emerge to continue the process on a sustainable basis. CC

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  4. John – although you state my point that mentoring is not for everyone, I was trying to consider (clumsily perhaps!) two things.
    Firstly, Clark Quinn’s diagram of the value of formal and informal networks, depending upon your place in the novice-practitioner-expert continuum. If you were more towards the expert end in something then perhaps the mentor approach would be less effective.
    Secondly, and tied with the first, I thought Quinn was proposing a technological solution, an e-mentor (i-mentor?) – something automatic, a sort of always on PLE, able to make the connections, alert you to the learning opportunities, etc.
    I embedded the Corning Glass video since it simulated/predicted a sort of always-on world, where technological devices knew who you were anywhere, including at the clothing store (where the customer was shown a range of outfits modeled by – her own image!). I had such a reaction of intrusiveness which made me think hard about the always-on PLE/auto mentor/sage approach….

  5. Yes, I shared your points too. Here clark says: “We can have curricula, learning objects, and build a sage via rules that can do this. Imagine going through your workday with a device (e.g. an app phone or a small tablet) that knows what you’re doing (from your calendar), which triggers content to be served up before, during, and after tasks, that develops you over time. We can build the tutor, develop and access the curricula and content, deliver it, track it.” That’s similar to what the Corning Glass video has revealed, and to some extent, many of us might have used the mobile technology – iPad, smart or iphones in doing that. These are becoming part of our daily life and work, and PLE is always on, as auto-mentor & sage etc. The challenges are many, as these seemingly “disruptive technology” are still not yet fully “recognised” in most institutions or by the educators as yet, as these are not yet part of the “content” of the course, and that not too many of us could afford the “luxury” to own all those devices. Back decades ago, the use of RFID could track down our buying habits, our where-about – imagine if the RFID is attached to your pair of shoes or your pair of glass, watch, or now the mobile phone. These technology – mobile phones together with Foursquare could easily reveal our identity and location wherever we go. Is intrusion an issue? May be everyone could be “tagged” with some forms of chips or RFID for life – like the movie of the Beautiful Mind, and technology could determine our life. The cyborg is coming! Isn’t it?

  6. @George Relating to how sage on the side would help, I am wondering if learning analytics are used to indicate when such mentoring or coaching are used, how well it is used, and what the impacts are. Even our conversation could be captured using real-time mobile devices, to see if we are responding to any inquiries, and the effectiveness of such responses, at work or in study. i-mentor could be embedded in these learning analytic softwares and technology, and thus prompt the learners for things that need to be done, and how they could be done, with online help and guidance, using mobile devices. These are opening up new avenues of education and learning, which doesn’t confine to the class-room teaching, and traditional assessment based on tests and examinations. It is on-all the time, and all customized and personalized.

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