NMRC: Mentor-Mentee Activity Guidance

National Mentoring Resource Center

Evidence Rating for this Practice:

Promising (Promising: 4 Studies; Null Effect: 2 Studies; Insufficient Evidence: 2 Studies)

In four of the eight studies reviewed, the practice of mentor-mentee activity guidance was associated with better outcomes. In these four studies, the outcome evidence and the methodology used for assessing effects of the practice both satisfied criteria for a designation of Promising. In two of the remaining 4 studies, the methodology used for assessing the effects of the practice met criteria for rigor but the outcome evidence did not reach the threshold for a designation of Promising; these studies were thus classified as Null Effect. The final 2 studies were designated as Insufficient Evidence because the methodology used for assessing effects of the practice did not meet relevant criteria for rigor.

The pattern of evidence designations across the reviewed studies meets criteria for an overall evidence rating of Promising for the practice. This rating is based on currently available research. Findings and conclusions may change as new research becomes available.

Description of Practice:

Mentor-mentee activity guidance involves supporting matches with engaging in particular types of activities or discussions. The activities that are the focus of the guidance can vary widely in association with considerations such as the characteristics, backgrounds, and needs of mentees, mentor backgrounds, skills, and interests, and program goals. Possibilities include relatively specific types of outings or project-based activities as well as more broadly defined kinds of activities or discussions that align with a particular goal (e.g., mentee spark development). The timing, number, frequency, and length of the target activities can also vary; in some instances activity guidance may take the form of relatively limited “icebreaker” activities at the outset of relationships, whereas in others it may involve a much more extensive collection of activities that is intended to encompass the full duration of relationships. The level of guidance provided similarly can range from simple lists of activities to step-by-step instructions. Activity guidance may be delivered in a variety of formats, such as mentor training sessions, group workshops for mentors and mentees, match support contacts, and printed or on-line resources. Furthermore, the activities involved may be presented as either optional or required.

This practice is distinguished from pre-match or post-match training for mentors as well as match support for mentors, the aims of which are typically broader and more multi-faceted than activity guidance. It is also distinct from one-time events (e.g., holiday parties) or other similar opportunities (e.g., attending a sporting event) that may be sponsored by programs as these are not typically oriented toward facilitating particular types of mentor-mentee interactions or activities. Finally, when goal setting is a focus, matches may be helped to pursue activities that support progress toward selected goals. However, because such guidance is likely to be only one of several components involved in supporting matches to work toward goals, goal setting/pursuit is considered to be a distinct practice from mentor-mentee activity guidance.


The primary goal of the practice is to facilitate mentees and mentors engaging in interactions and activities that will strengthen the mentoring relationship and promote positive outcomes for the mentee.

Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:

This practice is potentially applicable to all forms of mentoring and the full range of youth who may be served by programs.

Theory and Evidence-Informed Principles:

Mentor-mentee activity guidance is not guided by a particular theoretical perspective. However, this practice is consistent with frameworks that emphasize the need for mentors and mentees to engage in specific types of activities or experiences in order to fully realize goals of prevention (Cavell & Elledge, 2014) or promotion of positive development (Lerner et al., 2014). Lerner and colleagues (2014), for example, discussed ways in which mentors could be coached to engage in different types of activities with their mentees to facilitate each of the “Cs” of positive youth development (i.e., competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, contribution). Mentor-mentee activity guidance is likely to often be directed toward strengthening the knowledge, skills, and efficacy beliefs of mentors for engaging in particular types of interactions with mentees. These factors are emphasized as being influential in numerous established theories of behavior change, including the Integrated Behavior Model (Montano & Kasprzyk, 2008).

Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:

This practice is most relevant to the area of Monitoring and Support within the Elements of Effective Practice.

Key Personnel:

The successful implementation of this practice is likely to require staff to have skill and experience in the delivery format(s) that are being used. For example, where a training or workshop format is utilized, staff should have a mastery of the substantive content and be experienced with effective methods of group facilitation and instruction. Of key importance in all instances is likely to be an awareness on the part of staff of the need to provide guidance to mentors and youth in ways that are responsive to their interests and desires for self-direction. Staff ideally will be experienced in the use of strategies that are well-aligned with this principle (e.g., motivational interviewing).


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