Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring

 
  • Overview

    The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ represent the research- and practitioner-informed recommended practices for implementing a quality youth mentoring program. As such, they represent an excellent starting point for designing new programs and ensuring the quality of programs as they grow and mature over time. You can view the current edition of the Elements (link opens in a new tab) on the National Mentoring Partnership website.

    Because these Elements are so critical to the field, and adopted so widely, the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board has examined the research-based evidence behind each of the Standards found in the Elements. You can read their review of evidence for each Standard by clicking the appropriate sections to the left. Users should note that this review examined the 3rd edition of the Elements and that a 4th edition is currently being developed by the National Mentoring Partnership and a separate team of researchers and practitioners.

    Review Methodology

    The Research Board conducted a thorough literature review to identify research that could help assess the evidence for each Element across four domains:

    • Extent of Evidence Base: Number of studies
    • Favorability of Findings: Degree to which findings are supportive of practices that align with the Standard
    • Methodological Rigor: Strength of research design for reliably and validly detecting effects of the relevant program practices
    • Scope of Findings: Degree to which findings address implications of multiple practices that align with the Standard as well as use of relevant practices within different program models (e.g., site- and community-based) and with mentors and youth of varying backgrounds (e.g., older peer and adult mentors, youth faced with differing types of life challenges).

    Read the full methodology and a detailed explanation of the ratings: How Were Reviews of the Research on the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ Conducted? (PDF)

  • Recruitment

    Recruiting the right participants lays the foundation for a successful mentoring program. This set of standards, benchmarks, and enhancements will help mentoring programs of all types identify and recruit mentors and youth who are a good fit for the program.

    Standard:

    Recruit mentors and mentees by realistically describing the program's aims and expected outcomes.

    Research Review:

    Overall, available research findings are consistent in providing support for the Recruitment Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice™. However, only a low number of studies have addressed this topic. Furthermore, the methodological rigor of these studies is low with respect to being able to provide the types of evidence that are most needed to clarify support for the Standard and its associated Benchmarks and Enhancements.

    To see the full review, click here to download the PDF.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    Low

    Favorability of Findings
    High

    Rigor of Methodology
    Low

    Scope of Findings
    Low

    Benchmarks:

    • Mentor Recruitment: Program engages in recruitment strategies that realistically portray the benefits, practices and challenges of mentoring in the program.
    • Mentee Recruitment: Program recruits youth whose needs best match the services offered by the program and helps them understand what mentoring is and what they can expect from a mentoring relationship.

    Enhancements:

    • Mentor Recruitment: Program has a written statement outlining eligibility requirements for mentors in its program.
    • Mentee Recruitment: Program has a written statement outlining eligibility requirements for mentees in its program.
  • Screening

    Effective screening practices not only keep participants safe, but also ensure that youth and volunteers have the characteristics and abilities to be successful in your program. This set of standards, benchmarks, and enhancements can help programs craft effective procedures for screening participants before program participation.

    Standard:

    Screen prospective mentors to determine whether they have the time, commitment and personal qualities to be an effective mentor.

    Research Review:

    Overall, available research provides limited support for the Training Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™. More specifically, although the overall weight of the existing evidence does not indicate benefits of practices aligned with the Standard, there are some specific results that are supportive.

    A low number of studies have addressed this topic. With respect to clarifying support for this Standard, these studies as a group are of moderate methodological rigor.

    Studies address support for multiple practices that align with the Standard, including the use of screening procedures for mentors in the form of a written application, personal interview, and reference and criminal background checks. Evidence is more limited with respect to the types of program models and range of backgrounds of mentors and youth considered.

    To see the full review, click here to download the PDF.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    Low

    Favorability of Findings
    Limited

    Rigor of Methodology
    Moderate

    Scope of Findings
    Limited

    Benchmarks:

    Mentor Screening

    • Mentor completes an application.
    • Mentor agrees to a one (calendar or school) year minimum commitment for the mentoring relationship.
    • Mentor agrees to participate in face-to-face meetings with his or her mentee that average one time per week and one hour per meeting over the course of a calendar or school year.
    • Program conducts at least one face-to-face interview with mentor.
    • Program conducts a reference check (personal and/or professional) on mentor.
    • Program conducts a comprehensive criminal background check on adult mentor, including searching a national criminal records database along with sex off ender and child abuse registries.

    Enhancements:

    • Program utilizes national, fingerprint-based FBI criminal background checks (e.g., the SafetyNET system operating under the auspices of the Child Protection Improvements Act, in cooperation with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).
    • School-based programs assess mentor’s interest in maintaining contact with mentee during the summer months following the close of the school year and off er assistance with maintaining contact.
  • Training

    Training program participants ensures that they have the skills and information needed to build strong, effective mentoring relationships. This set of standards and benchmarks can help your program develop pre-match and ongoing training sessions that support program activities and goals.

    Standard:

    Train prospective mentors in the basic knowledge and skills needed to build an effective mentoring relationship.

    Research Review:

    Overall, available research provides moderate support for the Training Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, meaning that the weight of existing evidence indicates benefits of practices that align with the Standard with no or very limited evidence of potential for adverse effects. Numerous studies have addressed this topic. With respect to clarifying support for this Standard, these studies as a group are of moderate methodological rigor. Studies address support for multiple different practices that align with the Standard and its associated Benchmarks and Enhancements (including both delivery of the recommended minimum two hours of pre-match training and the provision of additional training beyond this level) and have included multiple types of program models (community-, school-, and other site-based); findings are more limited with respect to range of backgrounds of mentors and youth considered.

    To see the full review, click here to download the PDF.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    High

    Favorability of Findings
    Moderate

    Rigor of Methodology
    Moderate

    Scope of Findings
    Moderate

    Benchmarks:

    Mentor Training

    • Program provides a minimum of two hours of pre-match, in-person training.
    • Mentor training includes the following topics, at a minimum: Program rules, mentors’ goals and expectations for the mentor/mentee relationship; mentors’ obligations and appropriate roles; relationship development and maintenance; ethical issues that may arise related to the mentoring relationship; effective closure of the mentoring relationship; and sources of assistance available to support mentors.

    Enhancements:

    Mentor Training

    • Program uses evidence-based training materials.
    • Program provides additional pre-match training opportunities beyond the two-hour, in-person minimum.
    • Program addresses the following developmental topics in the training: youth development process; cultural, gender and economic issues; and opportunities and challenges associated with mentoring specific populations of children (e.g., children of prisoners, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, youth in foster care, high school dropouts), if relevant.
    • Program uses training to continue to screen mentors for suitability and develops techniques for early trouble-shooting should problems be identified.

    Mentee Training

    • Program provides training for the mentee and his or her parent(s)/guardian(s) (when appropriate) on the following topics: program guidelines; mentors’ obligations and appropriate roles; mentees’ obligations and appropriate roles; and parental/guardian involvement guidelines.
  • Matching

    One of the keys to achieving program goals is to make sure that program participants are matched with the proper considerations and compatibility to build a strong, long-term mentoring relationship. This set of standards, benchmarks, and enhancements can help your program determine matching criteria and processes.

    Standard:

    Match mentors and mentees along dimensions likely to increase the odds that mentoring relationships will endure.

    Research Review:

    A systematic literature search revealed no studies that have examined variation in a practice related to the Matching Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice™  in relation to indicators of a program’s effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and/or safety.

    To see the full review, click here to download the PDF.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    None

    Favorability of Findings
    N/A

    Rigor of Methodology
    N/A

    Scope of Findings
    N/A

    Benchmarks:

    • Program considers its aims, as well as the characteristics of the mentor and mentee (e.g., interests, proximity, availability, age, gender, race, ethnicity, personality and expressed preferences of mentor and mentee) when making matches.
    • Program arranges and documents an initial meeting between the mentor and mentee.

    Enhancements:

    • Program staff member should be on site and/or present during the initial meeting of the mentor and mentee.
  • Monitoring and Support

    Even the strongest mentoring relationships will need some support and guidance along the way. This set of standards, benchmarks, and enhancements can help your program develop a strategy for checking in on matches to ensure they are meeting program expectations and to provide appropriate support as needed.

    Standard:

    Monitor mentoring relationship milestones and support mentors with ongoing advice, problem-solving support and training opportunities for the duration of the relationship.

    Research Review:

    Overall, available research provides moderate support for the Monitoring and Support Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, meaning that the weight of existing evidence indicates benefits of practices that align with the Standard with no or very limited evidence of potential for adverse effects. Numerous studies have addressed this topic. With respect to clarifying support for this Standard, these studies as a group are of moderate methodological rigor. Studies address support for several different practices that align with the Standard and its associated Benchmarks and Enhancements (including post-match training and individual supervision of mentors by program staff) and have included multiple types of program models (community-, school-, and other site-based); findings are more limited with respect to range of backgrounds of mentors and youth considered.

    To see the full review, click here to download the PDF.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    High

    Favorability of Findings
    Moderate

    Rigor of Methodology
    Moderate

    Scope of Findings
    Moderate

    Benchmarks:

    • Program contacts the mentor and mentee at a minimum frequency of twice per month for the first month of the match and monthly thereafter.
    • Program documents information about each mentor-mentee contact, including, at minimum, date, length and nature of contact.
    • Program provides mentors with access to at least two types of resources (e.g., expert advice from program staff or others; publications; Web-based resources; experienced mentors; available social service referrals) to help mentors negotiate challenges in the mentoring relationships as they arise.
    • Program follows evidenced-based protocol to elicit more in-depth assessment from the mentor and mentee about the relationship and uses scientifically-tested relationship assessment tools.
    • Program provides one or more opportunities per year for post-match mentor training.

    Enhancements:

    • Program has quarterly contact with a key person in the mentee’s life (e.g., parent, guardian or teacher) for the duration of the match.
    • Program hosts one or more group activities for mentors and their mentees, and/or offers information about activities that mentors and mentees might wish to participate in together.
    • Program thanks mentors and recognizes their contributions at some point during each year of the relationship, prior to match closure.
  • Closure

    All mentoring relationships eventually come to an end—even if they wind up meeting for a lifetime, participants’ formal involvement in your program has limitations. This set of standards, benchmarks, and enhancements can help your program craft policies and procedures for closing matches effectively and safely, regardless of how or why they end.

    Standard:

    Facilitate bringing the match to closure in a way that affirms the contributions of both the mentor and the mentee and offers both individuals the opportunity to assess the experience.

    Research Review:

    A systematic literature search revealed no studies that have examined variation in a practice related to the Closure Standard of the Third Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice™ in relation to indicators of a program’s effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and/or safety.

    This is an aspect of youth mentoring that future research can hopefully identify effective practices. Until then programs must rely on practitioner wisdom and apply strategies that can help participants leave their mentoring relationships on a positive note.

    Extent of Evidence Base
    None

    Favorability of Findings
    N/A

    Rigor of Methodology
    N/A

    Scope of Findings
    N/A

    Benchmarks:

    • Program has procedure to manage anticipated closures, including a system for a mentor or mentee rematch.
    • Program has procedure to manage unanticipated match closures, including a system for a mentor or mentee rematch.
    • Program conducts and documents an exit interview with mentor and mentee.

    Enhancements:

    • Program explores opportunity to continue the mentor/mentee match for a second (or subsequent).
    • Program has a written statement outlining terms of match closure and policies for mentor/mentee contact after a match ends.
    • Program hosts a final celebration meeting or event with the mentor and mentee to mark progress and transition.

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