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Final 20Mentor 20edit 2018 20feb 202005 by LBY2ks


									                            Jonelle Husain and Allen Scarboro

                    The Archetypal Mentor—Lessons from Homer

       This paper briefly reviews the benefits of mentoring for students as well as some

of its limits. While mentoring may take a variety of forms and shapes, we highlight two

models or styles of mentoring and discuss the benefits and limits of each. In the end, we

argue in favor of the community of practice model as both more powerful in its effects on

students and more open to a more diverse student population. We then offer examples of

attempts to institutionalize the community of practice. We outline some of the

constraints on powerful mentoring and we end with a series of recommendations.

       The idea of mentoring and its importance have gained wide currency in the last

several years, but thinking about mentoring is not new. A powerful model for the

mentor-student relationship is articulated in Homer‘s Odyssey. Kenneth Eble, a

contemporary student of the learning process, identifies Mentor, who had been charged

by Odysseus to care for his son Telemachus, as the archetypal mentor. He states, ―the

Greeks were the first to recognize that education means deliberately molding human

character in accordance with an ideal‖ (1983: 20).

       In the Odyssey, Athena acts both as co-creator and collaborator with Mentor in the

education and shaping into adulthood of the boy Telemachus. The goddess Athena

exhibits an intriguing set of virtues: she is wise, but her wisdom differs significantly from

that of the golden Apollo, the god of ―knowledge.‖ Apollo, in contrast to Athena, acts
primarily from a distance, using a cold rationality. He comes among humans as the

archer, he who strikes from afar. Apollo‘s knowledge is most evident in mathematics,

music, tragedy, and logic: for the Greeks, ―knowledge‖ is orderly, a set of principles

(arche) from which rules for action are deduced—a powerful model of Apollo is the

syllogism. The teacher Socrates—teacher, not mentor, urged forward by rational

curiosity and duty as the fundamental civic virtue, is the ideal Apollonian.

         Athena, on the other hand, is she who acts through ―craft‖ (arete) and ―wile‖ or

―cunning‖ (metis). 1 She is a goddess of closeness, appearing as friend, familiar, guest.

As a craftsperson, she is the spinner, weaver, and knitter, she who transforms mundane

material into new and useful guises. As thread into cloth, she weaves humans into

nobility (Homer 289ff). Further, as goddess of the city, she counsels in assembly,

coming among us, urging practical action and the virtues of purpose and perseverance.

Crafty, resourceful, adventurous, determined, Odysseus is the paradigmatic Athenian. If

Apollo is the god of the rational and ordered knowledge (techne), Athena is the goddess

of emergent wisdom and the practical.

         Homer chooses the Athenian Mentor as pedagogue to Telemachus, rather than

choosing an Apollonian tutor in logic. In the education of Telemachus, Athena as Mentor

sets before Telemachus a series of challenges and examples. In perhaps the most telling

episode in Telemachus‘s education, Mentor sends him away from the familiarity of

             In his discussion comparing metis with techne (―technical knowledge…based on logical

deduction from self-evident first principles‖), James C. Scott characterizes metis as representing ―a wide

array of practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human

environment‖ (1998: 313, 319).

Ithaca to the court of Nestor, the unfamiliar terrain of another minor Greek king. This

journey, meant to forge and test Telemachus‘s adult skills, is fraught with risks and

uncertainty. Mentor urges Telemachus to embrace these risks, to ―act alone‖ (268) and to

test his mettle in those affairs of statecraft in which Mentor has tutored and modeled him.

Mentor cautions Telemachus to remain clear-headed and prudent, to test out the course

on which he has embarked, but to act in courage. Mentor refuses to let Telemachus‘s

inexperience deter him from action and, rather, sets up challenges to stretch

Telemachus‘s confidence and comfort. At the same time that Mentor goads Telemachus

to boldness, Mentor goes ―on quickly ahead‖ of Telemachus (36), offering protection as

well as urging him into the risky terrain of adult responsibility. Mentor is adamant that it

is through experience and courage that one becomes an adult of consequence.

Telemachus reflects that through his learning he comes ―awake‖ and ―knows what is

honorable and what is not‖ (384.)

       At its roots, the Odyssey provides a powerful model of the mentoring relationship

in which a wiser, more experienced, wilier person (professor) takes in hand someone who

is just setting out into the practice (student) in which the mentor has developed some

mastery. The mentor ―sees ahead‖ of the student and helps the student set her sights

higher than the student imagines she can achieve. The mentor loosens the feet and mind

of the student, urging her into realms in which she has not yet been tested and where

outcomes are yet undetermined. The mentor‘s craft is to open up opportunities, to

challenge, to propel the student forward. The mentor sees capabilities, potentials, and

gifts in the student that may be hidden from the student herself. Importantly, it is the

mentor‘s recognition of these possibilities that makes them real. When Herbert Kohl

reflects on one of his mentors, he remembers that, ―Seeing is believing–believing in the

[student‘s] capacity to learn‖ (1994: xi). The mentor brings to the surface what she sees

in the mentee. At the same time, the mentor is both beside of and in front of the student,

clearing obstacles, softening falls, and encouraging her potential and her capabilities.

The mentor helps the student see that risk sometimes leads to shortfalls but that the

student‘s courage can make those shortfalls temporary and productive.

                                   Benefits of Mentoring

        College students experience many changes in their personal and professional

development during their courses of study. George Kuh, researching the effects of the

college experience on students, identifies the following gains for college graduates:

       substantial gains in knowledge (particularly in the major), autonomy, social
       maturation, and personal competence; modest gains in verbal and quantitative
       skills, cognitive ability, aestheticism, and awareness of interests, values,
       aspirations, and religious views; and modest decreases in irrational prejudice,
       political naïveté, and dogmatism (1995: 123).

However, only five percent of students attribute these changes to interactions with

faculty, although students who report higher interactions with faculty show higher gains.

While students give little credit to the faculty, on the whole, for their learning, they give

richer credit to those faculty who mentor. Kathleen McKinney, David Saxe, and Laura

Cobb, sociologists of teaching and learning, extend Kuh‘s finding on the impact of

mentoring, reporting:

       …positive outcomes of mentoring and contact with faculty members,
       [include] positive effects…on first-year students‘ confidence and their
       satisfaction with the institution [; ... ] mentors helped [students] to develop
       their thinking skills. Female students with female mentors indicated
       increases in their self-confidence. At the graduate level...sociology
       students‘ access to mentors positively influenced students‘ confidence,
       satisfaction, and involvement in professional activities (1998: 4).

Mentoring is associated with cognitive growth, clarification of values, increased

identification with a discipline, and increased self-confidence. Moreover, research shows

greater satisfaction with their educational experiences among students who identified

themselves as having a mentor. Sociologists Bruce Keith and Helen Moore, in their study

of graduate student success, reiterate this point:

       Satisfaction in the doctoral program is influenced primarily by perceived access to
       a mentor. [Students see] mentoring [as] an essential aspect of sociology students‘
       professional development, enhancing their professional self-image and academic
       activities. It provides the relatively smooth entry into the discipline that we might
       anticipate (1995: 207, 212).

McKinney, Saxe, and Cobb further find that:

       Greater student-faculty interaction, out-of-class interaction with faculty
       members, or working with faculty members on research outside of class
       are positively related to the following: students‘ satisfaction with the
       institution, persistence, educational aspirations, academic growth,
       knowledge acquisition, and career interest and selection (1998: 4)
       [emphasis in original].

Mentoring promotes involvement with and interaction at the professional level, preparing

students for professional status and activities. In short, mentoring facilitates students in

making those positive changes we seek through their educational experience.

                     Shortfalls in Current Mentoring Relationships

       The benefits of mentoring are powerful and unchallenged. Less lauded, however,

are the findings that mentoring relationships may also include unrecognized or unwanted

shortcomings. These include gender, class, and race effects. J. Scott Long reports,

―Relationships with the mentor, and most importantly collaboration, are important sites

for differences in the experiences of male and female students‖ (1990: 1298). For

example, he finds males and females differ significantly in the characteristics of their

mentors: mentors of females are less productive, less prestigious, and more often female

(1304). Further, ―for both males and females, the productivity and prestige of the mentor

have opposite effects on the odds of collaboration.‖ As mentor‘s publications increase,

the odds of collaboration grow disproportionately for males compared to females. In

addition, less prestigious mentors are more likely to collaborate than are the more

prestigious and they are more likely to collaborate with females. In addition, for

females—but not for males—―being married doubles the odds of collaboration... [while]

having children has a nearly equal but opposite effect‖ (1306). Long suggests that, ―Male

mentors may also be reluctant to enter [with female mentees] into the close working

relationships often associated with collaboration for fear that colleagues or family will

assume that there are romantic aspects to the relationship‖ (1298). He also suggests a

more systemic problem: ―incompatibility between the egalitarian roles necessary for

collaboration and stratified gender roles‖ (1298)--faculty student stratification coupled

with gender stratification reduces opportunities for collaboration between female students

and male mentors.

        The mentoring relationship is inherently ambiguous, combining both difference

and similarity, distance and closeness, direction and collaboration. Mentoring provides

both intellectual challenge and intellectual support2. As researcher Thomas Angelo

    William Perry (1970) argues that cognitive growth and professional judgment are

fostered by an environment and by social interactions that both ask from students more

than they are confident they can achieve and that provide a relatively low-risk
reminds us, although interaction between teachers and learners is one of the most

powerful factors in promoting learning, ‖the mentoring relationship require[s] mutual

trust‖ (1999: 9). Collaborative work requires the teacher and student to work as peers,

bracketing those dimensions of difference limned by class, age, occupational and marital

status, gender, and other insidious divisions [see Paulo Freire 1990—his call for

empowering pedagogy requires the learner and the teacher to struggle side by side against

those structures of oppression that surround them]. Collaborating on mutual tasks

requires the mentor to work alongside the student while simultaneously ―go[ing] on

quickly ahead‖ of her, a double feat which entails constant negotiation and renegotiation

of goals and means. These negotiations are inevitably housed in structures of power,

prestige, and status.

         In addition to structural constraints, personal and idiosyncratic elements also

come into play. In their study of mentoring of graduate students, Keith and Moore note


         inability to predict perceived access to mentors among students pursuing the
         doctorate. Nonetheless, availability of a mentor is found to be very influential in
         increasing professional confidence, professional activities, and general
         satisfaction with the program (1995: 206).

As a component of the ―irrationality‖ that exists in mentoring relationships, they note

further that,

         The irony of the mentoring process is that it was not found to be associated with
         the demonstration of [student] ability. Instead we found that it resulted from an
         exchange that occurs between faculty and students on the basis of attributes other
         than demonstrated ability and initial funding (209).


Mentors most often select mentees who mirror the mentor and her scholarly interests; the

mentee often reflects not only the mentor‘s scholarly but also her personal characteristics.

       Race and ethnicity, like gender and sexuality, introduce inequities into forming

and maintaining mentoring relationships. Today‘s professorate is disproportionately

distributed according to raced, ethnic, and gendered categories. In a study of factors

shaping the recruitment of African-Americans into faculty ranks, Laird Townsend writes,

       Faculty nurturing and mentoring programs for black students face a
       systemic barrier. Under the current tenure system, non-tenured professors
       are not rewarded for time spent with students...these types of programs can
       take time away from research demands. These demands can fall
       especially heavily on black faculty (1994: 89).

Fewer black professors are available per the number of black students than the proportion

of white professors per white students. Not only are fewer black professors available for

black students but also black professors face systemic disincentives for mentoring. Black

students are hit with a double whammy: fewer potential mentors who are then

discouraged from mentoring. Similar situations face Hispanic and other minority student

groups. The effects of this relative paucity of mentoring opportunities have cumulative

and long-term career effects. Kim Allen, Steve Jacobson and Kofi Lomotey report:

       Without proper guidance African Americans often get shunted into quasi-
       administrative, and ultimately dead-end, positions.… [T]he process of selection of
       African American teachers for administrative assignments differed significantly
       from the pattern that applied to White males. [And]…women and members of
       under-represented groups who are chosen for administrative positions are
       generally seen as ―tokens‖ and receive differential treatment compared to White
       males....[These patterns] tend to restrict opportunities for individuals to interact
       with potential sponsors from among higher-ranking, typically White, male
       administrators, thus impeding further promotion (1995: 412-413).

Martin Anderson, Alexander Astin, Derrick A. Bell, Jr., Johnetta B. Cole, Amitai Etzioni,

Walter Gellhorn, Phillip A. Griffiths, Andrew Hacker, Theordore M. Hesburgh, Walter E.

Massey, and Reginald Wilson (1993) report similar findings in their exploration of the

shortage of black professors.

       Mentors sharpen students‘ self-image, expectations, and aspirations. Students

excluded from mentoring and sponsorship often find themselves on less challenging and

less rewarding career paths. In an assessment of the ways intentional mentoring

programs can ameliorate the differences between majority and minority students,

researchers at Loyola of Chicago report:

       Structured mentoring programs involving research activity, such as [the
       Social Science Research Opportunity Program at Loyola University
       Chicago], may enhance the likelihood of admission to graduate programs
       for individuals who have historically been unable to pursue advanced
       social science education. Subsequently they will be better prepared for
       positions of leadership in the academy and the community. Advantages
       accrue early in a person‘s scientific career.... (Crawford, Figert, Suarez-
       Balcazar, Nyden, and Reich 1996: 262).

The early benefits of mentoring have long-term positive effects at the undergraduate,

graduate, and professional levels.

       Several researchers note similarities in differential opportunities to be mentored

between female and male and between white and non-white graduate students. These

differences are associated with students‘ attribution of agency and the location of career-

shaping factors. Mary Frank Fox and Vincent C. Ferri find that:

       Women and men differed in their attributions for success in graduate
       school...women are more likely than men to emphasize the importance of
       structural factors external to persons [... while] men are more likely to
       emphasize the importance of individual factors more internal to persons,
       as represented by the scale of intelligence, ambition, and hard work....the
       sex difference is highly significant (1992: 263).

Men, with greater access to mentors, are more likely to attribute their success to their

own achievements. Women, with lesser access, are more likely to attribute their success

to their mentors‘ efforts or to other external factors. Mentoring, while fostering academic

and professional success, often also reproduces a gendered stratification system.

       Linda Grant and Kathryn B. Ward note that, among sociologists, males report

greater likelihood of having been mentored by faculty in graduate school and greater

rates of collaboration with their graduate school faculty than do females. Grant and Ward

note a subsequent difference as well: the presence of a gender difference in the response

of male and female sociologists to the rejection of articles submitted for publication:

       Women attributed failure [to have a paper accepted for publication] to
       defects in their research and writing, while men attributed rejection to
       external causes such as biased reviewers. Men usually resubmitted
       promptly, while women delayed or avoided resubmission (1991: 215).

Men are more likely to attribute success to their own achievement and failure to external

causes; women more likely to blame themselves for their failures and credit their success

to external factors, a finding subsequently confirmed by Fox and Ferri (1992).

Differences in external and internal attributions between majority and minority group

members account for differences in faculty career trajectories. Fox and Ferri report:

       [M]inority (compared to majority) ethnic groups tend to make stronger
       external structural attributions for the occupational achievement of others;
       majority (compared to minority) ethnic groups tend to make stronger
       internal, individual-level attributions. Further, attributions for the
       achievement of others may vary by the attributor‘s sex: women are more
       likely than men to make external attributions and men are more likely than
       women to make internal attributions (1992: 261).

By extension, Fox and Ferri suggest, ―Those in lower-status (compared to higher-status)

positions tend to emphasize external barriers in explanations for the failures of others–to

attribute causes to the system rather than to the individual‖ (261) while those in higher-

status positions credit themselves for their success and ―blame the victim‖ for their

failure. Grant and Ward agree, suggesting that gender differences in article productivity
are partially attributable to the effects of mentoring, collaboration, and attribution of

success. The impact of scholarly publication on academic careers is well known.

Mentoring not only appears to have immediate and long-term effects on persistence in

school, success in school, publication productivity, occupational attainment and tenure,

but also appears to reinforce gender and race differentials in career trajectories.

        Moreover, Fox and Ferri find that ―Men‘s the more traditional

bipolar pattern of relatively low external and high internal attributions, which lead to a

greater tendency to legitimize prevailing conditions‖ (268) [emphasis added]. Gender,

race, and ethnicity effects in the recruitment and nurturing of mentees promote the

academic professional careers of those who replicate the characteristics of the current

incumbents of high status positions. These differential effects reproduce the current

professorate by recruiting mentees who are similar to their mentors and whose

demographic characteristics, research interests, and theoretical orientations mirror the

current incumbents of professional positions.

       Mentoring thus often functions in a gate-keeping capacity. As Thomas Kuhn

[1962] points out, the recruitment of new members into the discipline is an important

mechanism for the maintenance and reproduction of normal science. Mentoring, then,

has structural antecedents and serious structural consequences.

                              Mentoring Styles: Two Models

Mentoring as Reproduction

       While mentoring may take a variety of forms, we wish to focus on two. The first

style is already implied in our previous comments. This style we term the ―reproductive‖

or ―normal science‖ model. We argue that while this style brings powerful benefits to

some students it also has inherent deleterious inequitable effects on the intellectual

careers of other students and, equally importantly, on the discipline itself. We argue for a

second style, which we term the ―experiential‖ or ―community of practice‖ model. We

suggest that this second model is not only equally if not more powerful than the

reproductive, but that additionally it is also productive, generative, egalitarian, and open

to a more diverse student population.

       Herbert Kohl, writing about his development as a scholar and a teacher, describes

a scene in which the mentor ―recognizes the ‗Other‘ in ones self‖ (1994: x). In the

reproductive model, however, we find rather that the mentor recognizes self in the other,

seeing in the student a mirror image of the mentor. This narcissistic image not only

occludes the student and inflates the mentor, but it also writes onto the student the

scheme of normal science. The student becomes a reproduction of the mentor.

       According to Eble:

       Teachers at the highest level of formal education who are greatly involved in
       preparing students to become teachers have responsibilities for conveying what
       their experience and study and wisdom have taught them about teaching. I speak
       not only of techniques and strategies but also of attitudes and values and of moral
       choices that go into the building of character. The mentoring relationship [is
       central to this] (1983. 26).

He further states, ―All of formal education is beset with the mentality that thinks only of

measures that must apply to all pupils, responsibilities that must fall to all faculty‖ (28).

Quoting Alfred North Whitehead, Eble reminds us that ―‗the students are alive, and the

purpose of education is to stimulate and guide their self-development‘‖ (141). However

the reproductive model, tethered to rationality and technical expertise, seeks the

reproduction of the known while discounting the intuitive, the allusive, the creative. The

current mentoring professorate mostly recreates itself in the faculty of the future.

       We take the notion of normal science from Thomas Kuhn‘s The Structure of

Scientific Revolution (1962). Kuhn argues against a common notion of science as

progressive and cumulative—the idea that we current scientists are pygmies standing on

the shoulders of giants. Rather he argues that institutionalized science and scientific

disciplines function to maintain, with as few alterations as possible, an ongoing world

view. ―Normal‖ scientists, according to Kuhn, are invested in the current scientific

paradigm and Weltanschauung, its institutionalization and its reward systems and

therefore they work to inhibit change in the basic structures they inhabit. ―Normal‖

scientists practice their craft through accretions, slowly adding to the edifice in which

they comfortably live, and they seek colleagues with similar interests and backgrounds.

Normal science by its nature is reproductive both in its basis and its personnel.

       Our contention that the reproductive style of mentoring is part and parcel of

normal science has been foreshadowed by Fox and Ferri‘s findings noted earlier in this

paper. Reproductive mentoring legitimizes and rationalizes the status quo.

Mentoring as a Community of Practice

       Telemachus‘ relationship with Mentor draws a very different picture from the

reproductive model. At the Odyssey‘s climax, Mentor stands alongside Telemachus and

his father Odysseus in the action which sets things right in Ithaca. Telemachus does not

reflect Mentor but works collaboratively, collegially, and alongside him.

           We argue that this image of the mentor standing aside her protégé, working

collaboratively in a community of practice which draws together the generation of

knowledge and the empowerment of knowers, offers us the possibility of inducing our

students into powerful agents working alongside us as co-builders of the disciplines we

practice. The model of mentoring we argue for grows from craft and practice rather than

from reproduction and accretion.

           In his ethnographic study of Icelandic fishermen, Gisli Palsson was particularly

interested in the process by which novices moved toward mastery of the attitudes,

predispositions, skills and knowledge that lead to success as a fish boat captain. He

found a distinctive style of mentoring shaping beginning fishermen into masters of their

craft. He termed this style ―enskilment,‖ a process that he sees as very different from

what we term the reproductive model of mentoring and from what he calls the normative

theory of learning and socialization. For Palsson, the ―normative‖ theory of learning

assumes that:

           …socialization, broadly defined as the acquisition of a stock of
           knowledge…entails the transmission of culture, a mental code or script that exists
           prior to and independent of human activities…. [T]he notion of learning as
           cultural transmission…[thinks] of the person in terms of a container, ‗as if the
           person possessed a fixed capacity‘ [of competence] analogous to the amount of
           liquid that can be placed in a glass (1994: 903).

This ―normative‖ understanding posits ―a natural novice who gradually becomes a

member of society by assimilating its superorganic heritage‖ (902). Palsson sees the

normative theory as assuming ―a one-way, hierarchical ordering of knowledge‖ (904)

which ―reduces the novice to an imitator of technique‖ (903)3.

     Here Palsson echoes Paulo Freire‘s ―banking‖ model of education, a model Freire explicitly links to

         Two fundamental errors of the reproductive style, Palsson continues, are (1) that it

―misconstrues the essence of the lived-in world, failing to capture what it means to

engage in a skillful act, the ‗feel‘ for the game‖ and (2) that it leaves ―unanswered the

fundamental question as to how a body of cultural knowledge is constructed‖ (903). For

Palsson, a craft or discipline is always under construction, always in shift, always

becoming. The normative or reproductive understanding, he argues:

         … [I]solates the acquisition and application [of skills] from everything beyond the
         boundaries of the soma […and] subscribes to a reductionist theory of both
         learning and sociality. [He proposes an] alternative view of practice theory
         [which] emphasizes the importance of attending to whole persons, master-
         apprentice relations, and the wider community to which they belong—decentering
         the analysis of enskilment and craftsmanship (901).

Taking seriously this ―decentered‖ view of the mentoring relationship ―leads to an

understanding that mastery resides not in the master but in the organization of the

community of practice of which the master is part‖ (901) and to a re-thinking of the

mentoring relationship. Palsson terms his construction of the decentered, dynamic style

of professional socialization ―practice theory.‖

         Palsson‘s ―practice‖ style:

         …allows for a novice whose sociality is given right from the beginning.
         Assuming a social or constitutive model of the individual is to introduce purpose,
         agency and dialogue into the process of enskilment—a radical break with the
         Cartesian tradition of separating ideas and the real world, learning and doing,
         experts and laypersons, knowledge and practice….The proper unit of analysis is
         no longer the autonomous individual separated from the social world by the
         surface of the body, a natural being who passively internalizes the mental scripts

oppressive social structures. See his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1990); Richard Sennett and Jonathan

Cobb (1972), in their discussion of the pseudonymous Josiah Watson Grammar School, describe a similar

educational process, where the larger number of students are forged into a ‗mass‘ of unsuccessful students

who set the stage for the ‗success‘ of those selected to stand in contrast to the amorphous crowd.

       of the cultural environment, but rather a whole person in action, acting within the
       contexts of that activity (904).

We see here a radical rejection of the romantic ideal of the teacher as master on one end

of a log while the student as naïf sits attentively but vacantly on the other end, eagerly

sucking up pearls of wisdom. Rather, Palsson‘s decentering leads us to envision the

relationships among the master, the apprentice, the practice of craft and the guild of

masters and apprentices working collaboratively to develop craft and ―feel‖ as a more

appropriate model.

       In Palsson‘s community of practice, the whole community educates each member;

rather than ―a one-way of transfer of knowledge… [this] form of apprenticeship…allows

for protection, experimentation and varying degrees of skill and responsibility‖ (915).

The community—an assemblage of persons with varying levels of mastery rather than the

―pyramidal context and formal method of teaching‖ characteristic of the reproductive

model—helps ―others to learn the affordance of objects within the context of a given

skill‖ (905). In this practice, ―Learning is not a purely cognitive or cerebral process, a

mental reflection on differences in time and space, but is rather grounded in the contexts

of practice, involvement and personal engagement‖ (920). To borrow a phrase from a

conversation between Myles Horton and Paulo Freire (1991), in the community of

practice, mentees and mentors ―make the road by walking.‖

       For Palsson, a major advantage of the community of practice model of mentoring

is that it respects the human persons involved in the mentoring relationship. He suggests,

the collaborative diffused style of mentoring:

       Informed by practice theory and the notions of situated action, mutual enskilment,
       and communities of practice, emphasizes both democratic communion and the
       continuity of the social world. While the relations of novices and their tutors are
       rarely those of equals, there is quite a difference between the open and linear
       system of apprenticeship [involving joint intentions and collaborative instruction]
       and the dualistic structure suggested by normative learning theory (905).

       In a description of a program that places undergraduate students in the teaching

role, sociologists Laura Fingerson and Aaron B. Culley find similar benefits accruing to

the collaborative sharing of teaching between professors and the novice teachers with

whom they pair:

       …most importantly, when [undergraduates are] allowed to contribute to the
       discovery and generation of knowledge, [they] learn something about their own
       potential and step out of the old paradigm in which the professor is the only
       source of knowledge in the classroom (2001: 312).

And Richard Paul reminds us that the heart of mentoring is far greater than the

transmission of cultural or disciplinary knowledge:

       Our basic ways of knowing are inseparable from our basic ways of being. How
       we think reflects who we are. Intellectual and moral virtues or disabilities are
       intimately interconnected. To cultivate the kind of intellectual independence
       implied in the concept of strong critical thinking, we must recognize the need to
       foster intellectual (epistemological) humility, courage, integrity, perseverance,
       empathy, and fair-mindedness (1999: 130).

These virtues are not some slurry that can be piped into the passive, empty novice‘s head;

they require embodiment and interaction, risk and challenge, sociality and practice.

       Burton R. Clark, in his review of the discipline of sociology and the need to

recruit future sociologists who embody the discipline‘s virtues, finds the discipline facing

the ―persistent problem of the professional calling.‖ Echoing Max Weber, as well as

Martin Luther, Clark argues that:

       When academic work is still a calling, it ‗constitutes a practical ideal of activity
       and character that makes a person‘s work morally inseparable from his or her life.
       It subsumes the self into a community of disciplined practice and social judgment
       whose activity has meaning and value in itself not just in the output or profit that
       results from it‘ [here Clark quotes Habits of the Heart]. A calling transforms

       narrow self-interest into other-regarding interests: one is linked to peers and to a
       version of the larger common good (1999: 57-58).

       The stakes in the question of mentoring are high. Not only do they involve

questions of how most effectively to help novices develop mastery in knowledge and

skills, of how to recruit and prepare future practitioners of and masters in our discipline,

but also of how effectively to maintain the vitality and openness that keeps the discipline

alive and pertinent, as well as building those habits of mind and action that push us and

our discipline ever more into critical consciousness and praxis.

       We offer three stories of such communities of practice in the following section.

                                        Three Cases

       The following three examples of collaborative mentoring in a community of

practice are each drawn from experiences at a small undergraduate department of

sociology in a mid-size public university in a city of nearly 250,000 in the Southeastern

United States. The school, a ―comprehensive university,‖ enrolls approximately 5500

students. Over half of the students were born in the university‘s local service area. The

school is non-residential and the majority of students have demanding work and family

responsibilities in addition to the demands of their schooling. Nearly 600 students pursue

one of two majors—divided roughly half and half between sociology and criminal

justice—offered by eight full-time and several part-time faculty in the department.

The Moral Maximalists

       The Moral Maximalists grew out of a team-taught 1997 summer course in Urban

Social Problems. The course focused on our city as a site for the investigation of local

social issues and required students to complete projects exploring current problems in the
local area. The course ended in a two-day workshop which attracted more than 400

members of the local community to sessions where students shared the results of their

investigations, moderated panels and lectures by experts they had recruited, and

organized sessions focusing on local problems and agencies and programs designed to

ameliorate those problems.

       At the conclusion of the course, students discussed how they might continue the

intellectual stimulation and commitment to action highlighted by the course and the

workshops. Three faculty and two students committed to forming a work group to ―learn

more about environmental injustices and grassroots responses [to environmental

injustice]…while at the same time creating opportunities to serve several of our

economically challenged neighborhoods‖ (Davies, Johnston and Thompson 2002: 3).

They chose the name Moral Maximalists ―to reflect [their] willingness to take notice of

[their] neighbors, to be responsible citizens and to help where [they] could‖ (3).

       The Moral Maximalists acted with little institutional support. The department

made no budget available, students received no academic credit for their participation,

and faculty received no released time for their participation in the group or its activities.

Group members met on Saturdays at members‘ homes and divided research tasks among

the members. Group meetings were times to collate and interpret data, to set new goals,

to share literature reviews, to develop research instruments, and to undertake other

collaborative tasks. The group set several research goals, including a community survey

of an environmentally-impacted neighborhood, social histories of selected

neighborhoods, and the identification and socio-spatial locations of hazardous waste sites

in the city. By the fall of 1997, the group had added four new student members. The

Moral Maximalists continued to work together for the next two years. New students

joined the group as current members graduated or moved away from the area. Over the

three-year life span of the group, a total of sixteen students had participated for a

semester or more.

       The success of the Moral Maximalists can be assessed in various ways.

Members of the group made a total of nine scholarly presentations on their research at

professional meetings, including the Georgia, the Southern and the American sociological

associations. Further, twelve of the sixteen students continued to graduate school.

Moreover, data collected by the group were made available and used by neighborhood

associations and political action groups to lobby the city and the state to actively address

environmental concerns. Community building activities helped empower neighborhood

members to define common interests and to work together in ways that continue today.

       The Moral Maximalists created a community of practice where experienced

sociologists brought novices into their craft by setting them onto ―real world‖ research

activities, by working collaboratively with the novices, by modeling their own craft, by

seeing these undergraduates not only as students but as sociologists.

The Medical Student Socialization Project

       A second collaborative research group in the department grew out of two faculty

members‘ collaborative research relationship with a public medical school in the area.

Starting in 1999, the faculty members developed a partnership with several medical

school faculty to explore areas of concern in the educational and professional

socialization of new medical students. A longitudinal research protocol was developed to

explore changes in medical students‘ styles of learning and knowing as they moved into

the medical profession. The research design included a central ethnographic component,

as well as interviews of beginning medical students and the administration of

standardized instruments to measure knowing styles to a set of students. The sociologists

saw an opportunity to introduce undergraduates into the project as learners-by-doing.

The first semester, fall 2001, five students enrolled and became research partners with the

faculty. The students collaborated in the development of the literature review for the

formal research proposal, worked to write and revise the proposal, assisted in the

presentation of the proposal to faculty groups at the medical school, learned the

requirements governing human subjects protocols, conducted extensive interviews with

medical students, attended and observed medical school classes, crafted social maps of

the medical school, and engaged in a variety of other research tasks. The group met

weekly for three-hour seminars where progress was reviewed, evaluated, and revised to

meet the goals of the project, problems were identified and addressed, new tasks

formulated and assigned, and a set of shared understandings of our findings assembled

and critiqued. By its fourth semester, a total of thirty students had participated in the

project with most students actively involved for one to two semesters.

       As with the Moral Maximalists, the success of this project as a model of

collaborative mentoring in a community of practice may be assessed in many ways.

Students made a total of eleven scholarly research presentations, including five at the

American Sociological Association annual meetings. All student participants have

graduated with twelve of them currently pursuing post-graduate degrees.

The Mardi Gras Social Problems Class

          In the spring of 2002, two upper division majors in the department requested that

an advanced social problems course be created for them to substitute for the lower level

course offered in the department. The faculty member to whom the request was made

agreed to the request but required the students to develop the syllabus and to recruit

additional participants for the course—seven students, including two first-year, one

sophomore, and four upper division students were recruited. Several guidelines for the

syllabus development were stipulated: the course had to address the development of

critical thinking and writing skills as well as encompass an in-depth approach to the study

of social problems.

          The students, with minimal guidance from the instructor, decided to use a

stratification model to investigate social problems and to conduct a participatory group

research project to provide the basis for their writing activities. The students proposed, in

addition to an extensive set of readings, a participant-observation trip to New Orleans

during Mardi Gras to investigate the stratification structures and processes during a time

which many people describe as free from the regular constraints of class, ethnicity,

gender and sexual difference. The students made arrangements, including writing a

proposal for funds for the trip, and set off to discover communitas4 in New Orleans. They

found, however, that within the apparent disorder of Mardi Gras the stratification system

continued to work robustly5.

    The students drew heavily on Victor Turner‘s The Ritual Process (1995) as they developed their project

    For a fuller description of this course, see Scarboro, Eyrich and Emert 2002

        A requirement for the course was for students to write publishable accounts of

their project. The students worked with the editor of the university magazine and each

wrote an essay for a general audience that placed their experience within a sociological

theoretical framework where they shared their conclusions drawn from their research.

Students worked closely with the editor, learning how to recast scholarly writing into a

style more accessible to the magazine‘s readership. All seven students wrote articles that

were accepted for publication. In addition, six students wrote papers that were presented

at scholarly meetings.

       In this case, the mentoring included bringing novices into professional practice in

three realms: developing theory, developing research skills, and developing pedagogy:

these students were given a large share of the responsibility to design and put in place

their own learning. Was this a successful example of mentoring in a community of

practice? Student responses indicated the course was one of the hardest but most

rewarding they had taken; students wrote published accounts of their learning; students

presented scholarly papers emerging from the experience to their sociological peers.

What We See in These Three Cases

       While the description of these three examples is necessarily brief, several themes

can be identified. First, undergraduate students—when ―seen‖ as capable—are capable

of high quality sociological practice. Second, undergraduates need not wait until

graduate school, or afterwards, to take on the role of sociologist. Third, collaborative

communities of practice generate many of the same benefits to groups of students as do

more traditional one-on-one mentoring strategies. Four, undergraduates are willing to

take on demanding professional tasks and responsibilities and can manage those

responsibilities. Fifth, although breakdowns on gender, race and ethnicity, social class,

age, and other background variables were not presented above, the student participants in

the projects described above were representative of the student composition of our

university.6 These projects did not recruit students who mirrored the faculty on these

variables. Sixth, these communities of practice engendered high student identification

with and commitment to the discipline of sociology and to the professorate as career


                                        Mentoring Gone Awry

          The community of practice model we advocate demands, from the mentor and her

colleagues in the making, commitments to on-going, negotiated relationships. Where the

reproductive model recreates the mentor in the neophyte, the relationship proposed in the

community of practice model is fluid and requires periodic renegotiation as mentors and

mentees define, clarify, and implement plans of action to meet the goals of the


          Always under construction, mentoring relationships remain vulnerable to

derailment at any given time. Successful mentoring demands commitment to

relationship. Not ends driven but person driven, the community of practice model

     More than half the student members of the Moral Maximalists were African American; two students

were Hispanic; more than half were female. Of the thirty students who participated in the medical student

project, more than half were female, six were African American, two were Asian American, one was

Hispanic American, two were self-identified as gay. Of the seven students in the Mardi Gras project, one

was African American, one was South Asian, one was self-identified as gay, four were female. Five

faculty were involved in the three activities; all were white: three male and two female.
challenges both mentors and mentees to levels of openness and self-disclosure that

demand negotiation as the relationships among all parties grow vested. Transforming

from a task-centered focus that is professionally aloof and objective to one characterized

by increased professional, social, and personal interactions, mentoring relationships are

always crafted within the contexts of institutional, departmental, and personal constraints.

Institutional Constraints

       Institutional constraints are a significant challenge to mentoring relationships.

Predicated on adherence and conformity to rules and regulations, organizational structure

sustains reproductive models of academic socialization, teaching and training. The

attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavioral standards that comprise the institutional culture

are rewarded and reproduced to recreate the currency of academia. Administrators,

faculty, and students alike are groomed into professional relationships characterized by

social distance, emphasis on technical competence, and secondary relationships

formalized through a model of teaching that deposits information and skills in the

student. Mentoring relationships demand closeness, sharing, trust, and collaboration for

the developing relationships to nurture, sustain, and maximize mentees‘ potential.

       Further constraining institutional culture are legal boundaries designed to protect

the institution and individuals from academic or sexual misconduct. Accusations threaten

the reputation of the institution, undermine the success of capital campaigns and alumni

support, and erode the courage of both mentors and mentees to actively engage in

collegial activities and the erosion of status differences the community of practice model

enacts. Such fears establish institutional strictures that require acknowledgment and

negotiation by both mentors and mentees. Repercussions from misconduct allegations

threaten to tarnish the institution‘s credibility and result in the creation of restrictive

policies and guidelines that reduce mentoring relationships to those that are public,

formalized, and subject to increasingly structured boundaries.

Departmental Constraints

          Further constraining the mentoring relationship are departmental policies and

philosophies that limit how, when, and where mentoring occurs. Departmental culture

attempts to institutionalize mentoring into processes defined by those types of

interactions, activities, and research endeavors valued by the discipline. Mentoring in a

community of practice is distinguished by commitments to academic and research

opportunities that challenge mentees to exceed their capabilities, academic aspirations,

and intellectual goals. Departmental culture both influences and constrains the type of

mentoring opportunities available to students. Departments that value mentoring create

opportunities for both faculty and students to enter into mentoring relationships. Further,

mentoring cannot be assigned as just another professional duty—therein lies formal and

ill-matched couplings. Rather, departments committed to mentoring must create the

climates and department cultures that permit mentoring relationships to emerge and


          Departments that privilege publishing, faculty research, heavy teaching loads, and

departmental responsibilities constrain mentoring opportunities for both faculty and

students. Faculty whose careers are in a state of development may have little time

available to invest in mentoring relationships or resources to do so. Conversely,

established faculty may have little interest or willingness to mentor.

       Mentoring that fails to provide students with opportunities to apply theoretical

knowledge or to gain practical experience in a chosen field produces graduates that bring

little innovation or creativity to the prospective market. Failures to provide research

opportunities that exceed data entry or simple analysis do little to nurture collaboration or

interest in skill development. Mentoring that fails to incorporate flexibility, interests of

the mentees, and research opportunities that translate into marketable skills produces

dissatisfied graduates and reproduces the status quo.

Personal Constraints

       As stated earlier, successful mentoring grows from commitments to relationships-

-relationships that are necessarily constrained by the mentor and mentees‘ willingness to

confront or avoid personal issues. As partners in a developing relationship, both mentors

and their mentees are subject to the same pitfalls as any other relationship: men and

women may mentor differently; same sex mentoring relationships may vary from

opposite sex partnerships. Issues of intimacy, proximity, and vulnerability present unique

challenges and opportunities to both mentors and mentees. In a culture where sexual

harassment and improprieties are serious issues facing academia, opposite sex mentoring

relationships present unique challenges to both mentors and their mentees. Unlike same

sex mentoring relationships—although similar concerns may emerge with sexual

orientation—many opposite sex relationships require sensitivity to concerns about

intimacy and romantic involvement.

       Professional and personal boundaries intersect mentoring relationships and

require both mentors and mentees to negotiate sensitive issues such as appropriate

behavior, disclosure, and frequency of contact. Body language, eye contact, spatial

boundaries, and issues of intimacy must each be open for negotiation, clarification, and

boundary-setting: communication is the heart and soul of mentoring.

       Personal disclosures are particularly problematic since they forge a bridge

between personal and professional lives. For mentors, knowledge of mentees‘ personal

circumstances provides a contextual framework for understanding challenges and

obstacles that may hinder mentoring goals. In contrast, mentors may not be comfortable

or willing to disclose to mentees the same degree of openness they encourage from their

mentees. Disclosure invites intimacy and intimacy breeds a vulnerability that can be

uncomfortable or frightening for those in mentoring relationships.

       Mentoring demands not only commitment from mentors but also from mentees

who are charged with the responsibility of clarifying and articulating their interests and

goals for the relationship. As guides, mentors must both walk beside of and ahead of

their mentees, providing safety, opportunity, and challenge. Together, partners in the

mentoring relationship must navigate, negotiate, and collaborate in transitioning

constraints into opportunities.

       Effective mentoring provides mentees safety to question the status quo, to craft

from the discipline places for intellectual growth, and to support the creation of

environments where challenges are opportunities rather than obstacles. Mentors are co-

creators in the developing discourse of knowledge and intellectual growth, providing the

encouragement, critique, and challenge required for emerging intellectual syntheses.

Mentoring is not masochistic, not sadistic, not reproductive. Mentoring is a process of

unfolding, discovering, and uncovering the active and creative selves of mentors and


       Mentoring goes awry when the developing relationship loses its balance. The

mentoring commitment requires flexibility, a willingness to negotiate, and courage to

step beyond standardized approaches to teaching and research. Methods and strategies

must be worked out to meet the goals of the relationship. Constraints that intrude on the

relationship demand both acknowledgment and attention, for mentors and mentees must

collaborate in the emerging project.

       At the core of ―mentoring gone wrong‖ lies a tentativeness to articulate and

communicate powerfully. Such communication demands openness, honesty without

masochism, and guidance without sadism. Neither mentors nor mentees can afford to

withhold or veil their questions, concerns, or misunderstandings out of fear, trepidation,

or even compassion. To do so injures the mentoring relationship. As stated previously,

the mentoring commitment demands courage, flexibility, and negotiation.

       Another challenge to the mentoring commitment is the tendency for both mentors

and mentees to revert into traditional ―expert-neophyte‖ relationships in which mentees

follows a course of academic development pre-determined by their mentors. In this

scenario, replication of knowledge replaces active and negotiated collaboration. The

danger lies in the ease with which the mentoring commitment regresses into a

reproductive relationship, stifling and thwarting the creative energy of active intellectual


       Institutional, departmental and personal constraints each inhibit the creation of

mentoring within communities of practice and reinforce commitments to reproductive

models of mentoring. Initiatives to build communities of practice must create

environments that lessen those constraints.

                          Conclusions and Recommendations

       Our survey of the literature on mentoring shows that mentoring can be very

effective with certain students, forging strong connections with the academy and their

mentors, developing agency, helping them establish strong identification with a

discipline, and moving to productive careers. The literature shows as well that the

benefits of mentoring are often structured by gender, race, ethnicity, and probably social

class. This combination of the efficacy of mentoring and the limits to access to good

mentoring deserves attention and explanation.

       We have sketched out two models of the mentoring relationship. One model,

which we term the ―reproductive,‖ we argue is associated with the structural factors that

limit access to and benefit from mentoring for an important number of students. The

other model, which we describe as a ―community of practice,‖ we suggest offers

advantages to the reproductive model both in going beyond the limits of the reproductive

model and in offering both mentors and mentees a more appropriate correspondence to

the growth of knowledge and understanding which are characteristic of a robust


       We presented three brief case studies of the ―community of practice‖ model.

These cases show that mentoring can take on more than a dyadic pattern--group

mentoring can be very effective. Further, these examples demonstrate that the mentoring

of undergraduates can have strong positive effects and that mentoring relationships can

move beyond the structural limits of gender, race, and ethnicity. The cases illustrate

mentees moving quickly into the ―production‖--not only the reproduction--of knowledge,

and illustrate as well mentoring as an open rather than a closed system. We think that

these case studies support our advocacy for the community of practice model.

       Entering a mentoring relationship, for both mentors or mentees, should not be a

facile commitment but should be undertaken with knowledge of the risks and

uncertainties that the relationship entails. Nevertheless, we offer the following

suggestions for colleges, departments, programs, and individuals who want to foster

strong mentoring.

       First, on the institutional level. Academic leaders should unambiguously show

their support for mentoring programs and should facilitate such relationships. These

leaders must recognize that much of the most vital and vibrant intellectual work in

colleges and universities lies outside the formal curriculum and outside formal classes,

seminars, and laboratories. They should make clear that they acknowledge that these

extra-curricular activities can have powerful effects on the intellectual and professional

development of faculty and students. Thus, academic leaders should make explicit

commitments to fostering mentoring relationships and should reward a variety of

mentoring styles. Provosts, deans, and tenure committee members must define mentoring

as valuable and valued professional activities.

       Second, on the department level. Department chairs should shape faculty role

models that recognize the value of mentoring as professional activity and should offer

formal procedures to reward a variety of mentoring styles and activities. They should

encourage collaborative mentoring activities such as those described in the case studies

above--permitting released time, encouraging projects with uncertain outcomes, and

protecting faculty and students should these projects fail to meet expectations. Chairs

should expect that learning to mentor and developing ones own appropriate styles require

some trial and error.

       Third, on the colleague level. Department and program colleagues should support

each other in valuing mentoring and the development of effective personal styles.

Colleagues should support requests for released time or other amenities to establish

innovative mentoring partnerships. Colleagues should be on the lookout for students who

would match up well with other colleagues and should make introductions.

       Fourth, on the individual level. Faculty should reflect back on their own

professional and intellectual development, identifying the interventions by mentors in

their own lives. They should try to identify different modalities of mentoring from which

they benefited and those from which few benefits flowed. They should inventory their

own strengths as mentor and explicitly build on those strengths as they enter mentoring

partnerships. Further, faculty should recognize that students do indeed benefit from

mentoring. They should invite students into mentorship, they should be alert to

opportunities to mentor even outside the specific areas of their own research, and they

should be open to taking the risks of mentoring. Faculty should remember as well that

the mentoring relationship is reciprocal--mentors benefit as well as do mentees. Indeed,

one of the unexpected riches of mentoring is the re-enlivening of the mentor.

       Mentoring is a valuable professional activity both for students and for faculty.

Mentoring should be encouraged by administrators, colleagues and individual faculty

members alike. However, one should enter mentoring relationships both enthusiastically

and cautiously: there are risks, but the goal of intellectual and professional growth is

worth well-considered risks. Mentors should, like Mentor, be willing to go ahead before

their mentees, creating safe environments for the mentees to explore, to risk, to fail, to

regroup, to thrive.

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