by Linda Phillips-Jones, Ph.D.
There can be two ways to learn in university - independently and with a mentor. In the first case, the student immediately learns how to look for ways to solve problems, but learning takes more time. In the second case, the process is easier due to the support of a mentor. The mentor`s task is not only to explain the material and share experiences but also to develop soft skills and motivation.
A mentor is more than a teacher
The traditional educational model uses the “teacher - knowledge - students” scheme. The idea of mentoring is broader: the mentor not just explains the material, he or she is a "guide" who develops the student's soft skills, shares experience, morally supports throughout the university education, and motivates.
Mentor definition in Oxford Dictionary is an experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time.
A mentor does not solve problems for his mentee and does not give ready-made answers
Mentors guide and push for solutions, allowing the mentee to think differently. The main goal of mentoring is to stimulate personal growth, develop skills, knowledge, and understanding of the chosen field. In training, university students master all the theories with the help of the teachers and do practical tasks, which their teachers then review. Mentors help solve problems but don't provide ready-made answers and teach students to find ways to correct errors.
How a mentor helps university students with their learning
The main function of a mentor is to support students. It is of two kinds - technical and moral. Students ask for help with tasks they don`t know how to do. The solution can be found on some websites, but most mentors suggest not to do this and to think on their own first. Technical support includes complex problems that, at a certain stage, students cannot solve on their own.
The second type of support is about motivation and morale. Learning is always hard. University students learn some new material. They have tight deadlines. It's stressful. Often there is a drop in motivation. Students fear that they are the only ones who can't do anything.
Mentor shares experience
A mentor who has walked the same path as a university student can share real-life cases and discuss their mistakes. But he or she should not be treated as a personal tutor or study partner. For simple homework help or proofreading, students can use the essay writing service Essay Tigers.
Mentor morally supports students and motivates them
Suppose a person decides to upgrade their qualifications or change their profession altogether. In that case, he or she finds themselves in a new environment, which is quite difficult to navigate at first. In addition, there are often difficult stages when the student feels that he or she is standing still and wants to quit everything. The mentor's task in this situation is to support and explain that a mistake is a natural learning process.
Mentor provides feedback
Feedback allows university students to see the gaps, record their progress, and understand where to go. In addition, coaching helps to work through mistakes and find alternative ways to solve problems.
Mentor helps develop soft-skills
The mentor helps to improve communication during video calls, develop decision-making skills during error analysis, and develop creative thinking through interactive, non-standard tasks.
Mentor gives recommendations for diving into a topic
A mentor with a broad outlook not only gives the materials from the educational program but also suggests additional ways of diving into the subject, like movies, educational lectures, YouTube videos, meetups, and analytical articles. For example, if a university student has trouble with schedules or deadlines, a mentor can advise on the best online schedulers. Or, if a student needs help finding where to check his or her writing for plagiarism, a mentor also can help.