What inspires someone to be a mentor?

Lewis, R. S., Edwards, C., Lee, W. C., Knight, D., Maxey, K., Leeker, J. R., Cardella, M. E., Hynes, M. M. (2018). Examining the Value of Mentoring in Youth Engineering Programs: What Motivates a Mentor to Mentor? IEEE. DOI: 10.1109/FIE.2018.8658860

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade

Notes of Interest: In this study, authors sought to understand what motivates volunteers to be mentors. Specifically, data was collected from undergraduates, graduate students and teachers who participated in a summer mentoring program through semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that there are three main motivators for why people want to mentor youth.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

The purpose of this research study is to examine the motivations of undergraduate students, graduate students, and teaching professionals to serve as mentors for elementary school-aged kids participating in the Summer Engineering Experiences for Kids (SEEK) program hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Data collection was conducted through semi-structured interviews (n=25), which we analyzed using a two pronged approach: 1) through attribute coding, we identified demographic information, and 2) through value coding, we identified the participant motivations for mentoring, which enabled us to identify the value attributed to the mentoring experience and thus each participant’s rationale for participating in the mentoring experiences. The themes that emerged from this analysis were mentors valuing their roles as influencers for the younger generation, mentors’ enjoyment in teaching and sharing their interest in science, and the belief that their roles in the camp enhanced their professional opportunities. The results of this study contribute to the literature on mentor motivation and provide empirical evidence for educators and administrators who aim to incentivize mentor engagement.


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

The purpose of this study was to examine the motivations of undergraduate students who mentor at SEEK Camps. Informed by expectancy-value theory, our research question was addressed through a qualitative analysis of 25 mentors from the SEEK 2017 cycle. Our analysis resulted in three key themes summarizing why mentors were drawn to engage in the experience: teaching, professional development, and influencers. The mentors who participated in our study indicated that teaching is an interest of theirs and by participating in SEEK, they can share their interest for STEM through teaching and are further encouraged to pursue teaching as a career path. This, in turn, supported their professional development as they received hands-on experience of being a teacher to elementary school students. Lastly, mentors found value in being able to influence the younger generation positively toward the STEM profession, specifically young girls.

For SEEK mentors, there was an attainment value placed on their roles as influencers for a younger generation in general and young girls, individually. These themes were developed from the categories of being a positive influence for young girls and being able to influence younger generations. This theme aligns with pre-existing characteristics of female collegiate mentors identified by Leyton-Armakan et al [28]. A mentor at one camp expressed this form of motivation as “bettering the next generation because right now we don’t have a lot of good role models for the next generation.” Mentors at the all-girl camps shared these statements “I think that’s part of the more the mentoring part, to let them know we’re all professional women” and “Helping the young girls. I am all about the younger girls because they are the future. Just helping kids in general, they are the future, so if I can help them and lead them into the STEM-based fields, I want to do that because we need more African American people.” With that fact, there are slightly more female mentors than males. While our sample of participants is an accurate representation of the ratio of female to male mentors in SEEK, it also means that in the future, we will need to be more intentional about interviewing men to gain their perspective on this phenomenon especially given the low number of men compared to women in the field of elementary education.


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