Our Vision For Mentoring
At Quest Forward, we believe that great mentors are facilitators of learning and architects of authentic classroom engagement. The Quest Forward Vision for Mentors describes how mentors can help young people grow and expand their academic, social, and personal skills. These skills enable students to form big dreams and pursue them with focused support from mentors along the way.
This vision, developed by the Quest Forward Research & Evaluation Team, describes what mentors can and should do to facilitate better learning and coach learners in their growth. We hope these components of the vision will inspire mentors to reflect on different aspects of their work and that they will begin to adopt it as part of their mentoring practice. Mentoring is an ongoing process, and we understand that it will take time and practice.
A traditional teacher and a Quest Forward mentor are different, and the Quest Forward Vision for Mentors explains how transformative learning comes from a small set of core principles:
- Learning Requires Action: We believe that mentors should provide active and engaging classroom environments that drive the process of discovery. Students should have the opportunity to cultivate relevant and authentic experiences, through not only flexible physical spaces, but also a wide variety of activities. Mentors should plan and incorporate activities that encourage exploration, investigation, and collaboration. In conversations, mentors can ask open-ended questions and inspire students to be responsible for their own actions and goals.
- Learning Improves with Practice: Mentors and students of Quest Forward Learning should embrace a skills-first mindset. Mentors, especially, should value skills development over content memorization. When mentors and students work together to identify areas of growth, mentors can provide scaffolded opportunities and feedback for students to practice and refine these areas over time. Mentors are expected to differentiate instruction based on an individual student’s needs and allow students to choose how they will demonstrate competence of a skill.
- We Learn Better Together: Quest Forward mentors should provide a collaborative learning environment that not only inspires creativity and innovative thinking, but the sharing of discoveries and successes as a driver for learning. Quest Forward classrooms are spaces for co-learning. It is expected that mentors find ways to incorporate social activities, such as peer feedback, critique sessions, group discussions, debates, showcases, performances, and other collaborations, into daily routines.
- Learning Happens Everywhere and Always: Mentors follow the premise that we all can learn wherever we are, from and with anyone around us, and in any setting, but only if we have the skills to seize those opportunities. Mentors should arrange opportunities for students to work with peers, mentors, experts, and people in the community when appropriate. Using current events as a source of exploration and modifying quests as needed allows mentors to make learning relevant for students.
- Learning Drives Personal Growth: Mentors are lifelong learners themselves. Mentors model and encourage a resilient mindset that values risk-taking, learning from failure, and personal growth. Mentors also facilitate student growth by addressing students’ understanding of the world, the skills students need to work in the world, and the ability to solve a wide variety of challenges. Through one-on-one meetings with students, mentors can develop individual learning plans that support personalized interests, curiosities, and skills.
Mentors are unique in their ability to incorporate collaboration, provide targeted scaffolding to students, support active learning strategies, enable student choice in their learning, and work as coaches through learning experiences. We believe in the power of a mentor as a facilitator of student learning, rather than just an instructor focused on content acquisition. Mentors are also advisors and coaches for the development of students’ talents, skills, and passions.
Through differentiation, enrichment, and engagement, mentors create authentic learning experiences for students who become leaders in their classroom, community, and our world. In a separate post, we will describe how we orient and support our mentors.
Kelsey Cain is the former Director of Professional Learning at Opportunity Education. She worked closely with schools and OE teams to develop and implement a comprehensive professional learning program for all school-based groups that align with organizational goals and strengthen instructional practices. Prior to OE, she was a classroom teacher and district leader across both urban and rural school districts in the U.S, and taught in Ghana and Costa Rica.