Co-constructing knowledge with youths: How Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT) can promote positive cross-aged mentorships?
Dantzer, B., & Perry, N. (2021). Co-constructing knowledge with youth: What high-school aged mentors say and do to support their mentees’ autonomy, belonging, and competence. Educational Action Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2021.1968457
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Researchers have historically worked with other adults to better understand the needs of youths without highlighting their voices.
- Some scholars are starting to utilize a different approach, where youths are experts of themselves.
- Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT) centers around the basic psychological needs (e.g. competence, belonging, and autonomy) to foster positive relationships.
- This study assesses 1) whether or not high school-aged mentors can co-construct knowledge and 2) whether or not RMT can help establish relationships between high school-aged mentors and their mentees.
- Findings indicate that high school-aged mentors can co-construct and apply language and practices to promote belonging, autonomy, and competence.
- RMT can help foster positive, cross-age mentoring relationships and a sense of community among peers.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Self-Determination Theory’s (SDT) most recent ‘mini-theory’, Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT) focuses on the essential ingredients of high-quality relationships (i.e. feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence). This study explores the applicability of RMT to cross-age peer mentoring. Of particular interest was whether the RMT framework could help high-school mentors develop positive relationships with their elementary-aged mentees. The specific language and strategies mentors used to support feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence was also of interest, as this level of detail has not been captured in previous research. High-school mentors were invited to learn about RMT during skill-building sessions. They were then asked to apply the language and skills they co-developed during mentoring sessions. Data included audio recordings of dyadic interactions, weekly mentoring logs, and interviews. Descriptive, Provisional, and In-Vivo coding were used to analyze data. Qualitative coding indicated high-school mentors were capable of co-constructing language and practices to support mentees’ feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence. Findings also indicated that mentors successfully applied this knowledge to mentoring sessions. Weekly mentoring logs indicated skill-building sessions helped mentors develop positive relationships with their mentees. The results of this study begin to suggest that RMT can help inform the cross-age peer mentoring process.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
The primary purpose of our study was to position high-school mentors as co-researchers and invite them to co-construct knowledge in the field of cross-age peer mentoring. To do so, high-school mentors were invited to help address two current limitations. The first limitation pertained to the lack of research examining how high-school youth might be supported to develop the necessary language and skills to support their mentee’s feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence. To date, research exploring the benefits of RMT has been limited to adult mentors (Henneberger et al. 2013; Simoes & Alarcao, 2014). As such, there was an opportunity to advance our knowledge by inviting high-school mentors to learn about and integrate RMT into their mentoring practices. Our findings indicate that high-school mentors can successfully co-construct language and practices to support feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence – and then apply these strategies to develop positive relationships with their mentees. To our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate how RMT can be utilized to help high-school mentors succeed in their cross-age peer mentoring relationships. This is an important contribution as it introduces RMT as a viable framework for helping high-school mentors develop positive relationships with their mentees – a recommended focus in the literature (Deutsch and Spencer 2009; Rhodes et al. 2002, 2006).
The second limitation pertained to our current need for a more detailed understanding of how mentors support feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence during mentoring sessions (Henneberger et al. 2013; Simoes & Alarcao, 2014). In our study, we invited high-school mentors to address this limitation by supporting their mentee’s autonomy, belonging, and competence during audio-recorded mentoring sessions. To our knowledge, our study is the first to use audio recorders to monitor the specific language and practices that high-school mentors used to support their mentee’s autonomy, belonging, and competence. Data gathered from audio recordings surfaced several important implications for future cross-age peer mentoring practice.
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