Answer to "Can a mentor be involved in the assessment of their mentees?" 

 

Topic Editor: Andrea Oudkerk Pool

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not it is acceptable and feasible to combine the role of mentor and assessor into one person.

The mentor knows the most about the students’ performance and development. However, if the mentor were to assess their students, this could harm their relationship. Students do not feel free to share their difficulties with someone who will eventually judge their performance.

Although mentors do generally not assess their students, including their opinion in the assessment process can improve the validity of the final assessment. Therefore, it is customary for mentors to advise an assessment committee about the student. A possible consequence could be that students cannot freely share their reflections with their mentor without the possibility of the mentor sharing this information with others. Therefore, some experts argue that that mentors should not be involved in summative assessment nor make recommendations to an assessment committee (Tigelaar et al. 2004)  

 

Van Tartwijk and Driessen (2009) propose several scenarios that can be chosen in order to find the right balance between support and judgment:

  • Teacher: the assessor role is most prominent. Mentors discuss the students’ progress and performance and assess the level of competence at the end of a course.  

  • PhD supervisor: Mentors invite peers to sit on the committee but they themselves are not a member of the committee. Mentors will not invite their peers to sit on the committee unless they are convinced the portfolio meets the criteria as this could harm their reputation. As a consequence, mentors and students have the same both want to produce a portfolio that merits a positive judgment

  • Driving licence instructor:  the mentor and the assessor role are strictly separated. The mentor helps the student to acquire the required competencies. These are documented in the portfolio. If the mentor thinks the learner is competent, he invites an assessor from a professional body to assess the students’ competence.

  • Coach: The mentor does not assess at all. The learner has to take initiative and ask for coaching.

 

Resources

Van Tartwijk J, Driessen E (2009). Portfolios for assessment and learning: AMEE Guide no. 45. Med Teacher, 31:790-801.

Tigelaar D, Dolmans D, Wolfhagen H, van der Vleuten C (2004). Using a conceptual framework and the opinion of portfolio experts to develop a teaching portfolio prototype. Stud Educ Evaluation, 30:305–321.

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