Cf. ‘Tutoring Dos and Don’ts’, Linda Stedje-Larsen and Roberta T. Schotka, pp272-274
According to this article, the Dos and Don’ts fall into nine categories:
- Job readiness
- Professionalism, courtesy, and ethics
- Preparing for the session
- Role modelling
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Adhering to institutional and tutorial centre policies and procedures
- Facilitating student-centred active learning
- Demonstrating empathy rather than sympathy, and
- Skilful session management
The article does not go into any real detail about these. Though some of the categories are self-explanatory or not for Mentors themselves to determine (job readiness for e.g.), for me role modelling, communication, facilitating active learning, session management, and demonstrating empathy are the particular categories I will focus on in my reading and in team meetings this term.
However, I did think it useful that the article suggests training activities to develop these aspects: for instance, starting with a cartoon scenario for groups (or I suppose individuals) to think what the dos and don’ts should be, ahead of a real session, and another activity in which one person takes the role of the Mentor and the other the Writer, the latter asking realistic and challenging questions in response to the Mentor’s advice, e.g. ‘But what if…?’ in order to encourage the Mentor to review their approach.
These activities support the importance of Mentor preparation and reflection, as well as practice of our skills, to ensure we offer the best possible service.
Thus, in view of this, I am appraising my own sessions more and more. Most of my errors/failings/flaws, I am realising, are missed opportunities. For example, I have not always listened as keenly as I believe I have done, so with much more attention to this fact, today I was able to improve. One writer had a lot of different concerns and seemingly had no preference about the order in which they were addressed when I asked him. However, subtly, they reiterated concern for one particular aspect. As I am now becoming more aware of the subtleties in people’s communication in sessions as opposed to perhaps everyday settings, I was able to pick up on this and focus on that particular issue. The writer seemed very pleased and is willing to book further sessions for their other concerns that we hadn’t had time for, which may not have been the case if we hadn’t identified his predominant concern at the moment.
However, improving my listening skills is an ongoing process, as is being aware of other missed opportunities. In another session, referencing was discussed, particularly why the same authors with books published in the same year have letters added to the citation and reference to distinguish the works from one another. While I explained this using the referencing format handbook, and utilised tangible examples of how difficult it would be without the aid of this lettering system, I could also have asked the writer to offer an example of this principle in practice to confirm that they really had understood the system.
As a result, I have started an informal catalogue of missed opportunities, so that I can attempt to rectify this in future sessions. Another that springs to mind, though in a much more nebulous fashion at the moment, is how much bias and assumption I bring to every situation in everyday life, including my sessions. Assuming what a person knows or doesn’t know. Assuming they approach their studies like me. Assuming they care as much about their study as me. Assuming that they are happy with the session. Assuming they are not happy with the session. Assuming they follow my examples and reasoning. Or that they don’t. And the list goes on.
This will be another ongoing process of being more aware that I carry, like anyone else, inherent biases and attitudes, that must be put to one side in sessions, as well as focusing on questions, on turning the tables when asked for advice, on focusing less on where I’m coming from and more on what the writer’s position and understanding are. It is hard, but, I believe, very productive and positive work.
So what are your missed opportunities?
Agee, K and R Hodges (2012). Handbook for Training Peer Tutors and Mentors. Ohio: Cengage Learning.