Answer to "What are the elements of a mentoring programme?" 


Topic Editor: Lianne Loosveld

One of the most important ingredients of healthy mentoring is a good mentor; a mentor who is motivated and good at being in social relationships. Enforcing all staff to mentor students may lead to pressuring “interpersonally challenged professors into formal mentoring roles” (Johnson, 2007, p.256). Johnson suggests the following features characterise good mentors (Johnson, 2007, p257):

  • Mentors are role models for integrating collegiality, teaching and scholarship.

  • Mentors are good listeners and effective communicators; they are direct and honest.

  • Mentors are altruistic and genuinely concerned about the welfare of mentees.

  • Mentors are self-aware, non-defensive and emotionally intelligent.

  • Mentors are characterised by positive affect and personal warmth.

  • Mentors easily establish relationships and form collaborative alliances.

  • Mentors are well networked in their disciplines and across campus.

Since good teachers are not automatically good mentors (Athanases et al., 2008), mentors should be prepared for their role with e.g. a formal orientation and continuing professional development on their role (see question 6). In addition, frequent contact between mentors in a network or community is also a valuable source of information, not only for new, but also for more seasoned mentors to engage in peer coaching and discuss mentoring strategies via cases or vignettes.  Mentoring is not something that comes from nothing, and mentors should be able to engage in periodic evaluation (for example by their mentees), so that outstanding mentoring can be reinforced and rewarded and less excelling mentors can be supported or coached (Johnson, 2007;Ramani, Gruppen & Krajic Kachur, 2006).

Next to having engaged and educated mentors, there preferably is an administrator that tracks, advises and assigns mentoring roles and structure. In a mentoring programme, institutions usually have an intervening role in assigning mentoring roles to faculty and students to mentors. Administrators can then provide structure like guidelines or policies, express expectations, provide matching systems if needed, and define start, end and duration of the mentoring relationship.



Athanases S, Abrams J, Jack G, Johnson,V, Kwock S, McCurdy J, Totaro S (2008). Curriculum for mentor development: problems and promise in the work of new teacher induction leaders. J Curr Studies, 40:743-770.

Johnson W (2007). On Being a Mentor: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ramani S, Gruppen L, Krajic Kachur E (2006) Twelve tips for developing effective mentors, Med Teach, 28:404-408