Embedding Mentoring in Higher Arts Education

Mentoring has many benefits, as has been discussed in various places on this website. Following are some ideas that might be helpful for those thinking about embedding mentoring in an institution of higher education. It has been the experience of the institutions offering the NAIP program that many of the elements listed below, are key in making mentoring work.

What is conditional?

  • The management has the vision that mentoring is useful and important.

  • Open communication amongst heads of departments.

  • Open communication amongst teaching staff.

  • Patience. Time is on your side.

What needs to be clear and defined?

  • A definition on ethics and principles.

  • A vision on how to manage expectations, define content and deal with conflict in a mentoring relationship.

  • A vision on the role of mentoring within the curriculum.

  • A vision on crediting and assessing mentoring as part of the curriculum.

What helps?

  • To co-operate with already existing forms of tutoring/coaching where there might be a place for mentoring. For example the one-to-one music tuition might benefit from a mentoring approach to help foster deep understanding, personal and artistic development where students take charge of their own learning.

  • To incorporate the student voice right from the beginning when designing the programme until the very end of evaluating it.

  • To have a teacher training program installed in the institution.

  • ‘Generic’ courses (research, performance practice, entrepreneurship, communicative skills, education) support the artistic and professional development. It helps to have such courses as a part of the program.

  • Emphasising how much mentoring is already installed in regular teaching or other programmes. Much of the teachers’ practice is mentoring, it helps to point this out. It is not a revolution that will change everything, but pointing out already existing good practice and enhancing it.

  • Sometimes outside pressure helps, for example when requirements come from authorities.

What helps even more?

  • Budget (for example to organise a training program).

  • Paying teachers/staff to invest time in mentoring.

  • Define mentoring as an important practise to support learning in which the agency of learning is with the student.

  • Keep mentoring clean and let it not become a tool for course management. The student must own the agenda it is not a place for the mentor to control the study course.

  • Create a pilot programme based on examples of good practice.

  • Define where mentoring is most needed.

  • Develop communities of practice around mentoring within the institution.

  • Encourage mentors to share their experiences and insights with other staff members to promote the practice of mentoring.

  • Report back including the students voice and that of external evaluators

  • Make mentors accepted as the ‘critical friends’ that can offer important feedback to the management and heads of departments

Tips for the mentors

  • Define your own answer to the question of whether mentors should have expertise in the subject of the students or not.

  • Careful consideration is needed in the case where the mentor is teacher of the mentee, or the person responsible for the study programme.

  • Pay attention to diversity and power in mentoring relationships.

  • Careful consideration is needed in the case where the mentor is participating in the assessment of the student.

  • Create space for a backup if a mentoring relationship is not working.

  • Create a support programme with other mentors.

What is the goal of training for mentors?

  • Creating understanding and awareness of ‘good’ mentoring.

  • Establishing clarity about the ethics and boundaries of mentoring.

  • Developing listening skills (hands on training and references to resources).

  • Developing coaching skills (hands on training and references to resources).

  • Becoming co-mentors for each other (hands on training).

  • Encourage development of personal style (hands on training).

Next steps:

  • Establish mentoring in the curriculum. For this check the Polyfonia/Dublin descriptors. Here is the description of the NAIP Mentoring Module, you may adapt.

  • Develop a criteria for assessment.

  • Define the intensity/frequency of mentoring sessions.

  • Define the working space or meeting space for mentoring sessions.

  • Design a ‘contract’ for the mentoring relationship.

  • Design a feed-back/evaluation process for the mentoring trajectory.