TITLE: Leading through Mentoring Relationships- Results of Phenomenological Research with Millennials AUTHOR Mary Ann Pearson ORGANIZATION: California Baptist University ABSTRACT: This paper is written based on research from my qualitative, phenomenological study that described and analyzed the lived experiences of twenty-five journalism students and recent graduates who worked on university publications and as interns for professional employers. The participants were all members of College Media Advisers and Associated Collegiate Press. They attended private and public universities across the country and were all members of the millennial generation or those born from approximately 1977-2000. Three main categories were identified from the interview transcripts and literature. These categories were journalism and social media, experiential learning, and external networking/mentoring relationships. The category of networking and mentoring relationships proved very interesting. This dissertation was completed in 2010 and I have continued to research mentoring while actively mentoring students, former students and faculty members. The stories from the study and from my work as a mentor and a specific model for mentoring will be shared in the paper and presentation. The dissertation research results indicated that the participants learned by experiencing a team dynamic while working on a university publication or as an intern. It was interesting to note that millennial students valued personal communication through mentoring relationships to support the learning activities. In this day of text messaging and social media is was heartening to hear how much they valued in person face to face communication. The mentoring relationships took place in person and were also maintained through social media relationships. The social media relationships enhanced the mentoring experience. Background I completed my doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2010 by successfully defending my phenomenological study and dissertation on effective educational experience according to millennial students and recent graduates. Many interesting themes emerged from the 25 interviews and the review of the literature. Some of the themes focused on the changes in the field of journalism brought on by the decline of print publications and the increase of online delivery of news. One of the unexpected themes was the importance of mentoring relationships. Several candidates provided anecdotal stories about how they improved as writers when a mentor sat with them and explained their errors and told them how they could improve. One of the students, Marty attended a public university and he explained his love of journalism. He shared memories of learning experiences that made a difference. I wrote for my college paper. A meeting with a student editor provided me an opportunity to learn more than I ever did before. One thing we do at our paper is, when a reporter posts a story, he meets with a student editor and goes over the story in great detail. The editor asks him about his sources, his angle, and the structure of the story. The editor coaches and reinforces the basics of good journalism. This was important to us because these were editors that we looked up to. They helped us make corrections and
improvements in a constructive way. Marty said that before he got involved in journalism he was ashamed of his writing. He wished he had paid better attention when grammar was being taught in grade school and high school. The coaching Marty received and gave seemed to relieve the stress and anxiety he felt about writing. Marty said when he coached writers in a one-on-one setting; it was the only way they improved in. Another student, Tammy explained that when she thought about how she learned, she realized that she learned by being coached, and she also learned by coaching. She remembered what it felt like to be mentored in a positive way. She replicated that same environment when she was in a leadership position because she said, “It was the only way my writing improved.” Many other students provided stories about having coffee or lunch with their professors and discussing dreams, goals and desires and gaining better insight from a person who had experienced what they were going through. They seemed to think these experiences were some of the most valuable learning experiences they had while in school. Research The research provided insight into the value of mentoring relationships. The research revealed that students felt uncomfortable when they were corrected in the area of writing, but when it was done in a mentoring manner it is much easier to take. Knowles (1990) wrote about attribution theory and emphasized that learners are motivated by pleasant outcomes. These outcomes helped learners to feel good about their work and helped with establishing a good selfimage. A caring student editor or faculty adviser who brought a warm rapport to the editing table provided an atmosphere that the student responded to favorably. This supports Pugh who wrote about attribution theory explaining that discussions with a mentor who helped students to develop better skills by communicating with an optimistic explanatory style and who encouraged them to believe that they can control how successful they can be are helpful ( 2006). The interviews in my study revealed that when these students entered the work force, many were grateful to mentors who helped them to improve their writing skills. This gratitude fueled a desire to provide the same care and coaching to newer students so these students could make a difference too. Passing on the gift of mentoring seems to make the cycle complete. When one has been mentored, they seem to naturally want to become a mentor and help others. The act of sharing knowledge and advice seemed to help them understand and value their strengths, skills and gifts so it was a mutually rewarding experience. Model I brought the research into practice while serving as a faculty adviser for University student publications. This proved to be a fruitful experience and a model for creating a culture of mentoring emerged. The best mentoring relationships seemed to develop naturally so I wondered if mentoring could be mandated as a part of course work and student publication activities. Requiring mentoring activities and offering course points for mentoring proved that mentoring can be taught and by establishing instructions and guidelines for mentoring, it was possible to actually teach a student how to become a more caring, nurturing, thoughtful mentor. Some students stumbled at first and expressed that there were not sure what to do to establish a good foundation for the relationship. Weekly coaching meetings between student editors and the faculty adviser provided the support and advice they needed to make the mentoring relationships work. Assessment and measurement are important so we created a survey that the protégés completed to evaluate the mentor and the mentors participated in self-evaluative writing and an
awards dinner where examples of successful mentoring were shared and celebrated. The following steps demonstrate the activities that contributed establishing a culture of mentoring. 1. Teach students about mentoring. 2. Create and use a rubric for the mentoring activities. 3. Make it valuable. 4. Mentor the mentor. 5. Celebrate the achievements. Teach students about mentoring. What does it look like? One of the biggest challenges is a lack of understanding of mentoring. Offering a training session on mentoring using journal article handouts, You Tubes, demonstrations and role-playing is crucial. As the research is explored and discussed an understanding of mentoring is established. Create and use a rubric for the mentoring activities Measurement is invaluable. A rubric created to demonstrate effective mentoring provides a tool to assess and measure. The rubric combined with reflective and analytic thinking and discussion provides information that can be analyzed to acknowledge deficiencies and to plan for improvement. A survey completed to assess the mentoring relationships creates a clear picture of what worked and did not work as well. Make it valuable People tend to work on the things leaders emphasize as important. When mentoring is a goal, resources are allocated and the success stories are celebrated, it is considered a valuable practice. Mentor the mentor Every mentor needs a mentor. The leader of the organization should mentor those who are mentoring and providing support to others. As leaders invest in followers the need to be coached and appreciated may not be as great as it is for a younger or newer employee but there is still a need and occasional mentoring sessions can provide the opportunity to offer encouragement and support. Strategic planning and scheduling is required to make this happen in a fair and equitable manner. Celebrate the achievements Celebrating achievements and recognizing efforts is fun and not only provides motivation to do well but recognizes a job well done. This can be done in conjunction with another meeting or separately. Acknowledging innovation and practice in the area of mentoring helps to create a culture which values and appreciates mentoring relationships. Conclusion The experience of creating a culture of mentoring provided many benefits that were not expected. One of these benefits was conflict resolution success. Improved interpersonal and organizational communication provided more open lines of communication. This communication combined with a culture of coaching and mentoring seemed to ensure that problems were navigated and negotiated in a positive manner. Occasionally, a student would not be very good at mentoring and perhaps did not like it but the act of trying to mentor others seemed to give them an awareness of what it takes to be a good mentor and had a positive impact on their working relationships.
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