Mentoring and the Spiritual Well-Being of Late Adolescents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to investigate the possible impact of faculty mentoring on the spiritual well-being of late adolescents. The sample consisted of randomly chosen students in their first year at a Christian liberal arts college in New England. Students in the experimental group participated in the freshman seminar program (small classes with seminar leaders/mentors), while those in the control group did not have the freshman seminar experience. Students in both groups were administered a self-assessment survey in September of their freshman year and again in May to determine if there was any change in their spiritual well-being and to explore their perceptions of mentor-student interactions. The findings revealed significant differences between the two groups. In addition, the three aspects of mentoring were positively correlated with the two components of spiritual well-being.

Religious faith in the college years can be tenuous. In 1957, Jacob found a continuous rise in the religious values of college students as they progressed toward graduation. In contrast, some 30 years later, Southerland (1988) found that college students were moving away from conservative moral values. Presently, the pendulum may be swinging back to greater religiosity.

In The Critical Years: In Search of Young Adult Faith, Parks (1986) notes that, with the transition from high school to college, students begin to reduce their dependence on authority figures. They increasingly think for themselves; wholesale acceptance of others' ideas diminishes. Despite their greater independence in matters of faith, Parks suggests that students can benefit from an interpersonal relationship in which they are challenged and supported: "This is a fitting time for the mentor, guide, coach, or sponsor. Mentors anchor the vision of the potential self. They...exercise both cognitive and affective appeal, offering both insight and emotional support" (p. 86). Further, Parks states that mentoring at this time of life may be most effective in fostering mature spirituality when it occurs in a group or community framework. Hence, it was hypothesized here that small group seminars with faculty mentors would have a positive effect on the spiritual wellbeing of college freshmen.

MENTORING

Mentoring can be divided into three categories: career, academic, and developmental. Career mentoring is concerned primarily with job advancement. While some personal development may occur, the focus is on obtaining skills and mastering the organizational power structure. Academic mentoring focuses on the educational needs of the individual student and involves one-on-one instruction. Developmental mentoring considers more general aspects of personal growth. People emulate those whom they perceive to be like themselves or whom they desire to become like (Erkut & Mokros, 1984), and developmental mentors act as role models.

The Teaching Mentor

Daloz (1986) combines the functions of the academic mentor and the developmental mentor to produce the "teaching mentor." Daloz points out that teaching mentors are interested not only in conveying knowledge, but also in having students experience "the phenomena" of the journey itself. For Daloz, the teaching mentor is a guide along this journey, supporting, challenging, and providing vision for the student.

Support. Supporting a person who is in the midst of change is essential. The teaching mentor validates the student's effort to grow, as well as offers the security needed to take the next step in the journey. Further, an essential element of the supportive role is the provision of structure. Daloz notes that for freshmen, who have recently left the extremely structured high school environment and joined the far looser college community, clear expectations, specific assignments, and short, achievable tasks are important. Structure may be reduced as students take on greater decision-making responsibilities. …