Program Goals/Target Population
The goals of the Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program were to improve academic performance, promote school connectedness and life satisfaction, and decrease disciplinary actions. The intervention targeted at-risk middle school students in grades 6–7.
The Brief Instrumental School-Based Mentoring Program was a one-on-one mentoring program. It consisted of eight 45-minute mentoring sessions that took place in a designated mentoring room during a student’s nonacademic elective once per week. The program was divided into three phases: rapport building and expectations (weeks 1–2), academic enabler training and goal setting (weeks 2–3), and performance feedback and problem solving (weeks 4–8).
During the rapport-building and expectations phase, the mentor engaged in activities and conversation intended to promote positive affective experiences, develop an initial connection between the protégé and mentor, and encourage the protégé to be an active participant in the mentoring relationship. During the second phase, the mentor used the protégé’s academic strengths and areas of concern to help the protégé set S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for the semester. Those goals were subsequently used to lead into academic enabler trainings (i.e., book-bag and locker organization, agenda keeping, homework planning, and study skills). In the last phase, the mentor provided performance feedback on the protégé’s progress toward goals in the first meeting and then helped the protégé problem- solve barriers to goals during the remaining meetings. The mentors learned and practiced the preceding activities by reviewing the program manual and by attending trainings.
Mentors, during or directly after each mentoring session, completed a checklist of the session’s procedures that included specific agenda items and tasks pertinent to the activities expected of the mentors during that session. A site supervisor reviewed the checklist with the mentor prior to the mentor meeting with his or her protégé and prior to the mentor leaving after the session.
The program was based on a brief mentoring model (Spencer and Rhodes 2005) with techniques adapted from Motivational Interviewing (MI; Miller and Rollnick 2002). Consonant with the MI approach, the program used a client-centered model that encouraged a flexible and reciprocal relationship between mentor and protégé while also accommodating goal-focused activities for the protégé, such as academic skills training. To help realize this aim, mentors used MI techniques such as “Ask, Don’t Tell”, “Avoid Argumentation”, and “Support Progress Towards Goals.” The first two of these tenets aimed to promote a strong working alliance and student-focused relationship wherein the mentor avoided arguing with or judging the protégé, and the mentor relied on the protégé’s explanations and reasons for change, rather than prescribing reasons for change. Additional techniques included compassionate empathic statements and open-ended questions to promote program-relevant conversation.
The school’s volunteer coordinator conducted the matching process whereby each protégé was paired with a mentor. All training and supervision sessions were led by graduate students in clinical–community psychology or by advanced undergraduate psychology or education majors.
The program was a manualized modification of Strait, Smith, McQuillin, Terry, Swan, and Malone’s (2012) MI approach to mentoring. The original study by Strait and colleagues (2012) included a single session of MI and performance feedback delivered by trained graduate students in clinical and school psychology.