Evidence for Learning: Mentoring


A summary of the research evidence on on mentoring in the Australasian context.

The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of mentoring on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on mentoring. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of mentoring interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

This Australasian Research Summary was generated by Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016. 

The majority of the research literature included in this review highlighted positive effects of mentoring programs on students, particularly in terms of future education and career pathways, and strengthened sense of identity, communication and interpersonal relationships. The literature suggests that mentoring has more of an effect if it occurs over a long period of time, involves mentors and mentees from a similar background, uses mentors who are university students, and is one-on-one. However, in some cultural contexts, group mentoring may be preferable (Noonan, Bullen & Farruggia, 2012).

The majority of mentoring programs examined by the studies below involve mentees from an underserved background, in particular Indigenous (e.g., Harwood, McMahon, O’Shea, Bodkin-Andrews and Priestly, 2015) or from a low socio-economic area (e.g., Curtis, Drummond, Halsey and Lawson, 2012). Having mentors who have a similar background helps in relationship building between mentors and mentees; it also aids in mentees being able to see a pathway to higher education or professional success (Singh & Tregale, 2015). Programs that work with underprivileged or troubled youth tend to have more of a positive effect than programs that work with middle-class students (Farruggia, Bullen, Davidson, Dunphy, Solomon & Collins, 2011; Singh & Tregale, 2015). Furthermore, youth from low SES backgrounds have been shown to more likely undertake further study when mentored by students from higher education (Curtis et al., 2012).

Programs included in the review by Farruggia, Bullen, Davidson, Dunphy, Solomon and Collins (2011) ranged in length from 3 – 48 months. Programs that work with youth for three months or less have a minimal to negative effect on their academic achievement, while programs with more contact time were found to be more effective. The authors also found gender pairings and one-to-one mentoring to be effective, and one-off programs to be ineffective.

The age the of mentee also appears to influence mentoring effectiveness. The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program shifts its delivery focus depending on the age of the mentee and does not focus on goal setting until students are in Year 11 or 12. The program offers a variety of curriculum-based sessions around identity, positive relationships and communication. The study on AIME by Harwood et al. (2015) highlighted the importance of encouragement and identity recognition to foster ideas and feelings of aspiration among Indigenous young people.

While school-based mentoring can be effective (Noonan, Bullen & Farruggia, 2012), mentors who are university students tend to have the highest positive impact on mentees, especially if they are from similar backgrounds (Harwood et al., 2015; Singh & Tregale, 2015).

Due to a range of practical and logistical considerations, cross-age peer mentoring within schools can be challenging to organise, even if it is beneficial (Willis, Bland, Manka, & Craft, 2012). Based on the findings of Archard (2012), mentoring within a school context between students, and between students and teachers, appears to yield mixed results, even if it has the potential to develop the leadership skills of young people (in this case, women). For example, staff needed to be more involved and develop more structured activities, and older students at times did not model positive behaviours. An evaluation of the YWCA Future Leaders mentoring program in New Zealand (designed to help high school girls become effective leaders) found mentors supported participants in increasing their confidence, helping them achieve their goals, achieving educationally, and in being a leader (Ballinger, Mason & Waring, 2009).

Archard, N. (2012). Developing Future Women Leaders: The Importance of Mentoring and Role Modeling in the Girls’ School Context. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(4), 451 – 472.

Ballinger, S., Mason, N., & Waring, M. (2009). YWCA Future Leaders Evaluation: A Report for the YWCA Auckland. Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.ipp.aut.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/110466/ywca-future-leaders-evaluation.pdf

Curtis, D. D., Drummond, A., Halsey, J., Lawson, M. J. (2012). Peer-Mentoring of Students in Rural and Low-Socioeconomic Status Schools: Increasing Aspirations for Higher Education. Adelaide, SA: National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Farruggia, S. P., Bullen, P., Davidson, J., Dunphy, A., Solomon, F., & Collins, E. (2011). The effectiveness of youth mentoring programmes in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 40(3), 52 – 70.

Harwood, V., McMahon, S., O’Shea, S., Bodkin-Andrews, G., & Priestly, A. (2015). Recognising Aspiration: The AIME Program’s Effectiveness in Inspiring Indigenous Young People’s Participation in Schooling and Opportunities for Further Education and Employment. Australian Educational Researcher, 42(2), 217 – 236.

Noonan, K., Bullen, P., & Farruggia, S. P. (2012). School-based mentoring: examining the cultural and economic variations in engagement and effectiveness. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 47(1), 47 – 64.

Singh, S., & Tregale, R. (2015). From homeland to home: Widening Participation through the LEAP-Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) Program. International Studies in Widening Participation, 2(1), 15 – 27.

Willis, P., Bland, R., Manka, L., & Craft, C. (2012). The ABC of Peer Mentoring – What Secondary Students Have to Say about Cross-Age Peer Mentoring in a Regional Australian School. Educational Research and Evaluation, 18(2), 173 – 185.

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Australia; New Zealand; tuakana-teina; mentor; mentoring; achievement; high school; intermediate; meta-analysis.