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How Do Site-Based Mentoring Relationships Affect Academic Outcomes?

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School-based or site-based mentoring (SBM) is a mentoring relationship in which the Big and Little meet for one hour each week at the same time and place. For most of our matches, this place is the Little’s school, but site-based matches can also meet at the Mentoring Center, located in downtown Tucson at 160 E. Alameda St., or in other after school site locations.

A 2015 study of site (or school based) mentoring examined 1) whether or not site-based mentoring relationships yield improved academic outcomes for children, and 2) by what means and mechanisms they may do so. The authors of the study look at two factors: feelings of closeness in the relationship on the part of the mentee, and a focus on academics as part of the relationship. They seek to determine which of these plays a more important role in improving a child’s academic outcomes.

These two factors align with two competing perspectives in theoretical mentoring models – “mentoring-as-relationship” and “mentoring-as-context.” The mentoring-as-relationship model claims that interpersonal closeness in the relationship is a necessary prerequisite for positive outcomes. The mentoring-as-context model emphasizes how the mentoring relationship itself provides a space for personal development and goal-setting, regardless of the closeness of the relationship between mentor and mentee.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that relationship closeness was more important than academic emphasis in predicting academic achievement in youth. Only those relationships which the mentee described as “somewhat close” or “very close” yielded positive impacts on academic outcomes. In fact, relationship closeness was a more important predictor of academic success than either match length or match status (whether the mentee was in his or her original, “intact” mentoring relationship, or had been re-matched with another mentor).

Results of the study suggest that the “mentoring-as-relationship” model holds more merit than the “mentoring-as-context” model, since it was relationship closeness, not focus on academics, which resulted more frequently in academic improvement.

Therefore, mentoring programs should seek to find ways to build closeness between mentor and mentee, and not focus too much on achieving specific goals within the relationship. It appears that good mentors could prove as beneficial as tutors in improving students’ academic outcomes. Site-based mentoring programs may be an important resource for schools seeking cost-effective methods to support students’ academic success.

Source: The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring

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