New research agenda by MENTOR introduces four key priorities for future mentoring research

MENTOR (2021) Growing Insights and Innovations: A Research Agenda for the Modern Youth Mentoring. MENTOR.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although the field of mentoring has grown and evolved over the years, there’s still the question of what the expectations are for youth mentoring.
  • This research agenda summarizes four key priorities for future mentoring research.

(Research Priority 1) Increase research on the role of mentoring in supporting youth identity development and combating loneliness and isolation

  • Prioritize identity-related outcomes
  • Become informed on how mentors can promote the identity development of youths who experienced marginalization and hardships
  • Assess how mentors impact youth sense of belonging and loneliness

(Research Priority 2) Study innovative strategies to expand the opportunity for mentoring relationships that occur naturally within systems and institutions

  • Assess the actions taken to strengthen schools and other institutions as essential mentoring hubs
  • Prioritize research that examines innovative approaches to expand natural mentoring

(Research Priority 3) Increase actionable research on mentoring that occurs in diverse programmatic settings

  • Invest in the scholarship of group mentoring models
  • Foster our understanding and application of successful virtual mentoring approaches
  • Broaden our knowledge and adoption of targeted mentoring approaches

(Research Priority 4) Invest in more research on the societal-level changes that are produced by mentoring relationships 

  • Conduct more research on mentoring, social justice, and civic engagement
  • Invest in longitudinal mentoring research
  • Listen to the voices of youth

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

One of the simple truths about mentoring young people is that it’s a complex activity, one that brings a wide variety of individuals together, often during moments of hardship or transition, to create something new, unique, and personally meaningful. Like all human relationships, mentoring relationships require not just initial connection, but also care and maintenance over time and a set of conditions that allow them to thrive and work toward a common purpose. Although the concept of mentoring is as old as civilization itself (and certainly embedded into the culture and ways of knowing of many communities), one of the defining features of the modern youth mentoring movement is the use of scientific research to better understand and scale these complex relationships — what makes them work, how they support individuals’ development, and how we can create even more of these relationships than the world we inhabit might produce naturally. From the seminal research of organizations such as Public/Private Ventures almost 30 years ago to the advanced meta-analytic studies of today, mentoring research has allowed us to examine — and in many cases improve — the availability, quality, and impact of mentoring relationships for young people across America.

Because of this investment in research, we now have a wealth of evidence that these relationships —both through dedicated mentoring programs and those occurring naturally in communities — can contribute positively to just about every aspect of a young person’s development and life journey. Crucially, this research has also highlighted key practices for mentoring that occurs in programs and helped guide a generation of adult volunteers how to step up more effectively in support of young people. We know more about the science, and art, of mentoring than ever before.

But as the mentoring movement has matured, so have the questions we ask of it. Our field is rapidly evolving to question old modes of thinking and embrace new ideas, to center youth voices and align this work with efforts to address long-standing American problems and inequities. There is always more to learn.

This Research Agenda highlights four key areas for future mentoring research that MENTOR believes will help strengthen the mentoring movement over the next decade. These calls to action were developed in collaboration with a working group of leading researchers, practitioners, and thought-leaders and this document reflects their consensus on what is most critical to study in the years ahead so that the power of mentoring relationships can benefit even more young people.

Implications (Reprinted from Future Calls to Action)

These recommendations put forth by our working group cover a lot of ground and will clearly require ongoing collaboration and investment by all stakeholders in the mentoring movement. The four priorities articulated here each represent important bodies of work that will allow mentoring to grow in quality and availability, and perhaps even strengthen whole communities over time.

Below we note additional important steps that different stakeholders in our movement can take, both individually and collaboratively, in meeting the goals of this agenda.

To access this article, click here.