1. Understand and implement the mentoring process
My experience as a Learning Coach has led my sessions to move on from one to one with each student and can now include Group sessions. Group sessions involving a small group can be as effective when compared to one to one interaction. Before the group is brought together I can decide on which students might interact better with each other, for example a group I have worked with included 2 boys and 2 girls who didn’t know each other well in the school but were all studying the same subject, I considered if any prejudgement would prevent the group from bonding so chose this setup.
The first session involved planning the steps that would be involved and purpose for having them in a group environment. I set goal deadline to meet within the group so they were aware of how long the time period would be, in this case 4 sessions over 4 weeks. The goal I had set was to discuss revision techniques and different Learning styles with, by the fourth week I hoped to have achieved an understanding for how they can motivate each other while learning from each other.
As a group they had all been properly introduced to one another and indentified key areas they were struggling in with the particular subject they had in common. I used a group exercise where they created two spider diagrams labelling the parts they like and didn’t like in the subject, they were quick to indentify similar areas they were either stronger or weaker in as a group.
Following the previous session I had each member of the group complete a VAK (Visual Auditory Kinesthetic) Questionnaire to indentify their own Learning Style. They all came out stronger in the Visual/Auditory side of learning and I showed them techniques such as using diagrams and bright colours, discussing topics as a group and making short notes that can be revisited. Each member of the group seemed keen to get involved and contribute their own ideas as we went along. To keep motivation high I always used positive comments as they worked, having the understanding and deadline established at the beginning helped them reach the goal and work together
As the group reached the final session we reviewed the work involved and how they had achieved the understanding of what was set out. I asked them to explain by each of them writing 3 key points they had learned that could involve either what they had learnt about Learning styles or about the subject they had applied them in. Although each member had remembered a different point they realised the potential in working as a group.
2. Be able to organise and initiate mentoring support in group settings
For a group to come together efficiently you have to consider how they will function as a whole. Will the members of the group bond immediately or will it take some time to reach a normality. You can help this process come together by developing techniques such as creating a Poster or Spider Diagram together about something in common. This will help ease any tension and allow you to see the more dominant members in the group and who might sit back during the process.
Bruce Tuckman developed a model that looks at the stages of group development (Web Ref 1)
1. Forming: The group comes together and gets to initially know one other and form as a group. Can be a very important stage as it allows the group to see who is more dominant and how they will work together. 2. Storming: A chaotic Vying for leadership and trialling of group processes This can lead to confrontation in the group if somebody is seen not to get along with the others. Problems in this area would arise from individuals giving a different opinion or idea on how to do the task set before them.
3. Norming: Eventually agreement is reached on how the group operates (norming) Possibly a leader in the group is set out who takes charge. The group might have specific tasks that each of them are focusing on. 4. Performing: The group practices its craft and becomes effective in meeting its objectives. Now that the group can work together they focus on the tasks and perform what they grouped together to achieve. 5. Adjourning: The process of “unforming” the group, that is, letting go of the group structure and moving on. As it was important for each of them to get together and understand it’s important to leave the process effectively. They each need to recognise what they have done and hopefully be proud of their achievements. Coming away from a group badly can affect future group processes. (Web Ref 1)
This model of how a group evolves with each other briefly describes how they operate from the beginning to the end of the group process.
Being the Learning Coach allows you to have a unique position in the group allowing you to take on any position you see suitable. It’s advisable to set ground rules for them to follow, these could be to be open and honest, keeping confidentiality within the group, not letting each other down or just respecting each other. With these sort of ground rules in place you can take a position of just watching the group or be a member of the group, if you feel they need some guidance raise the issue they are concerned with and put them on the right path.
It is important to consider what differences might be there for the group, so with the ground rules and having them focus on themselves as a whole and trust and respect each other can be a main focus. With some students coming from different backgrounds and diversity’s or having issues they might not want to talk about in a group environment can put a block on the groups progress. Don’t pressure them into these kind of topics and let the group flow naturally.
3. Analyse the mentoring skills, experience and qualities you used in this group setting.
When I deal with any students I always try to be friendly and make them feel comfortable to talk in front of me while being professional. I understand that the students will often look to me for guidance so I make sure not to be judgemental towards any of the group members and give everyone a fair chance. Hopefully this will promote them in doing the same to each other.
While my role in the group was more observational I did question them from time to time, making sure they were on the right path and understood what they had said. While talking with them I did try and avoid using questions that lead to a yes or no answer, asking them to explain, once they explained it to me I would try and relate to them personally. My observation in the group kept them disciplined and focused more on the task. I didn’t have to be talking for them to know I was there. I didn’t want to be intimidating them either, I would occasionally agree and give my opinion on something they said to see if I was following correctly and more importantly they knew I wasn’t ignoring them.
At the beginning of the time together we set out a goal that they all had in common. Something they all felt they could benefit from. I picked them all for this group originally because of that reason. The goal deadline was set out from the start for them to know when it would definitely be coming to an end. I hoped that from the sessions they would have learned everything they needed to and not need to come back to me. I have always said I keep an open door policy and if they needed to see me individually I would open it up as a new session time and new goal, this way they can understand that it’s not being dragged on from the previous time.
4. Be able to review the outcomes of the mentoring process With my Learning Coach group sessions what went well was discussing the matters with them and being a guide to keep them on the right track. The discipline was always fair and I never had to take any real precautions just focus them on the goal in sight.
With future groups I will try to focus more on achieving a greater goal. I possibly set the goal to easily for them to achieve but this is hard to see when you don’t know how the group will work with each other. I would also try and give some kind of reward incentive to give them more of a morale boost throughout the sessions. I didn’t present them with anything that could give them real pride in what they did other than knowing themselves what they achieved. I will consider giving them achievement points on the school system to acknowledge how well they have done.
My overall support I felt was just the right amount. I didn’t want to take total control of the group so I focused more on guidance to push them in the right direction. I may possibly in the future take more control of a group if I feel they are not going to achieve their goal within the deadline or not focusing on the task in hand. I would like to involve a different group activity for them to start with. The activity I have given them may not appeal to everyone. I would like to arrange a few activity’s they could pick from.
I asked the group afterwards how they felt the process went. They were generally happy with the result but were not sure if they would bother to use it when not in these group sessions. One individual was not happy with not being listened to and felt she would have directed her time in a different area to what the group decided on. I might consider making the groups smaller so that others get a chance to say something rather then just listening to others.