The Holistic Approach of Needs-Based Mentoring in Schools

Reference: Cloth, A. H., Trach, J., & Cannon, J. E. (2023). Needs-Based Mentoring in Schools: A Holistic Approach for Working with Youth at-Risk. Child & Youth Services, 1-24.

Summarized by: Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study

While traditional school-based mentoring (SBM) programs typically involve community volunteers dedicating an hour per week to mentor assigned students, this paper highlights the limitations of these existing approaches, citing a lack of theoretical foundations and inconsistent outcomes across various interventions. To address these shortcomings, the authors propose a new Needs-Based Mentoring (NBM) approach. This approach focuses training educational professionals already working at the schools in evidence based and student driven mentoring practices. The ultimate goal being to optimize the effectiveness of SBM programs in improving the outcomes of at-risk youth. The approach consists of five key elements which will be discussed below. 

NBM Elements:

  • Engage: (building rapport and trust). Engage is built up of the components supporting mentee autonomy, positive communication, attunement (knowing what a mentee’s needs are at a given time), and celebrating success; affirmations.
  • Teach: (providing skill instruction). Teach’s components are provide instruction, and scaffolding (creating steps of learning) and modeling.
  • Structure: (data-driven decision-making around goal setting). The components in this element are identify missing skills, goal setting with the mentee, collect and review relevant data (for example reports about grades and behavior), collaborative problem solving with the mentee and other supports, and data based decision making. 
  • Advocate: (supporting youth through the use of finding outside supports). The components here are community resources, family-school partnerships, and follow-up (check-ins with the mentee and other supports).
  • Assess: (continuous evaluation throughout all elements to assess mentee needs). Here the components are needs assessment, quality of mentoring relationships, and behavior change. 

Implications for Mentoring

Through use of these elements and, particularly the strategies embedded in them such as continuous assessment and evidence based strategies, NBM works as a strengths based approach emphasizing mentor and mentee collaboration, and focusing on the quality of the mentoring relationship. Importantly, NBM focuses around the involvement of school professionals as mentors, as their teaching and helping experience can be uniquely effective for supporting at-risk youth. For best practice the authors recommend 6-8 hours of professional development a year in specific skills and techniques. Additionally NBM can be integrated into a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) as a Tier 3 intervention for high-risk students. The authors note that future research should delve into specific aspects of NBM to uncover their impacts on student outcomes. Future research should also assess school capacity for implementing this approach effectively. Overall, NBM lays the foundation for a strengths-focused and evidence-based approach to school-based mentoring that has the potential to increase positive outcomes for at-risk youth.

To access the article click here. And to read an interview with Dr. Cloth about this article, click here.