How to Improve Teaching: 10 Ways Including Mentors in the Classroom Develops Skills

Including Mentors in the Classroom Boosts Engagement

Last Updated on January 26, 2023

This post is part of a 4-part series highlighting how educators can put the IB Learner Profile into practice and expand their learners’ consciousness.

As an IB educator, you already know the unique challenges of teaching the pillars of the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile to your learners. Educating a new generation of citizens of the world means rethinking the process of value, attitude, and behavioral acquisition (Wells, 2011), and this is no small feat. With this in mind, how can you “develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world?” In other words, how can you, as an educator, cultivate more conscious learners?

In this post, we will offer some insight from other educators who are seeing the positive effects that mentorship is having on learner consciousness in their classrooms.

Previously, we discussed how your learners becoming inquirers and becoming open-minded are essential parts of teaching to fulfill the goals of the IB Learner Profile. One of the determining factors in teaching learners to cultivate these complementary lifelong values is connecting them to the people that make them want to ask more questions and those that expand their consciousness to a diversity of answers. These are the influencers in their lives whose impact is durable and consistent. These are their mentors.

Shaping the Future Through Guidance and Role-Modeling

Mentors provide guidance and serve as role models for important decisions in one’s life. They have been there, done that. The adage stands true: learners cannot be what they cannot see. For a learner searching for personal identity in the world, and expanding their consciousness, mentorship provides an answer to the most pressing academic and professional career decisions they are undertaking every day. Traditional mentorship is a long-term process, but the world’s brightest minds are capable of offering byte-sized chunks of expertise that make mentorship digestible and accessible to learners in any age group. As an educator, you can connect learners to their mentors.

Preparing IB learners to be exceptional

The IB mission aims to prepare IB learners to make “exceptional contributions” on campus and beyond – but how does this happen in practice? Part of becoming exceptional is being able to see other exceptional people as your future self. As an educator, you are your learners’ primary role model – indeed, you are one of their mentors – every single day. And, you have the power to open up their circle of influence even further.

What educators who use mentors in their classrooms show us: 10 Takeaways

Educators who are connecting learners with mentors aligned to their curriculum and lesson plans see the positive benefits across a range of outcomes. Testimonials of educators like you speaking to the impact of mentorship in their inquiry-based classrooms show us that:

1. Mentors empower learners.

Above all, learner empowerment is the goal of a forward-thinking classroom. Rose T., an educator who highlights the importance of inquiry-based learning in her classroom, emphasized that her learners’ mentor empowered them to “find the answer within [themselves], as well as in their network.” But the answer is just the start; the mentors’ most durable contribution is the development of learners’ soft skills. Giving learners the tools for meaningful interactions with others is one of the ways they become empowered in their own learning journeys.

2. Mentors get learners asking questions – and answer them well.

Lucy B., an educator who brought multiple mentors to her classroom, explained that one of the mentors she worked with, “encouraged the learners to ask questions and was frank and thought-provoking in his responses.” Posing well-thought, higher-order questions is motivating when a learner has the expectation that someone with a bright mind – a thought leader – will be willing to answer with a depth of insight.

3. Mentors, as experts in their fields, are able to help learners digest difficult concepts more clearly and easily.

Lucy B. also saw how a mentor’s expertise could make imparting information to learners a breeze. As leaders in their fields, mentors can break down thoughts that are otherwise complex. A mentor speaking to the complexities of the US college application process “managed to present the information in a way that was accessible to our learners. She used personal relevant examples and made sure that the knowledge she imparted was understood.”

4. Mentors highlight the importance of sharing ideas through discussion

Dave D. highlighted how peer-to-peer learning disrupts classic K-12 education, in which textbooks provide the answers to pre-defined questions. The mentor Dave brought to his classroom not only answered learner questions but also “got the learners thinking about the topic by asking questions back at them as well.” The Socratic method may have been the pioneering force behind asking learners questions, but mentors do this in practice today.

5. Mentors give learners concrete advice about their goals.

Rose T., an educator connecting her learners with a university officer at the University of Sussex, noted that her learners were able to more clearly identify which universities offered the right scholarships for their college applications.

6. Mentors offer real-life understanding and relevance.

Caitlin Q., an English educator, brought a literature expert into her classroom who turned understanding Shakespeare into a discussion. Confusion about Iambic pentameter and historical concepts was replaced by talking about how a play is staged and the roles of actors. This alternative viewpoint gave the educator a chance to get her learners thinking about the way a once-abstract text can come to life.

7. Mentors allow learners to see into the future of different careers.

Alison W. brought a mentor from Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list to her classroom. She was thrilled to see that he “answered the learners’ questions with relevant examples from his own experience. He gave excellent advice to the learners regarding future proofing and preparing themselves for future university and career choices.” In fact, professionals who had mentors who guided them in their careers reported higher salaries and job satisfaction.

8. Mentors show understanding toward the challenges learners face.

Being heard in a real way is something learners hope for. Mentors validate the experiences they are having by being able to reflect on their own experiences as young people and offer clarity that the future can be bright. When educators and parents can’t get through, mentors can come from an outside perspective, speaking “to them as peers, not talking down to them,” as IB educator Laura H. found out. This way, mentors give learners the chance to reflect on real-life situations and think critically about them, expanding their own mindset.

9. Mentors give learners the confidence to dream about solving problems.

Martin J. spoke with clear admiration toward the impact of the mentor he brought to his classroom on learners, explaining that she “communicated [enthusiastic] passion to the learners. She has likely inspired the next generation of environmental scientists who can try to fix the global problems we are currently facing.” This outcome speaks for itself. When you, as an educator, show learners how to change the world through effective problem solving, you have accomplished the reason for the education itself.

10. Mentors provide inspiration, and that’s priceless.

“Inspiration” is one of the most used words by educators to describe the outcome of bringing mentors to the classroom. But how often do we just check off a list of tasks, without thinking of how to bring inspiration to life in a quotidian way? Mentors make inspiration a given and provoke learners to take their creativity one step further.

Bringing the world into your classroom through mentorship not only makes your job as an educator but enhances the learning experience for your learners. Other educators’ experiences highlight the positive social, psychological, academic, and career outcomes of bringing a thought influencer into learners’ lives.

Are you inspired yet? Find your learners a mentor. 

PS: Check back to our blog soon. Coming next: A feature on student’s testimonials of their experience with mentorship in the classroom.

Today more than 22,000 students in 120 international & private/state schools across 17 countries use 100mentors to engage their students into designing their own learning journeys in and out of the classroom through our live, interactive platform and mobile application.

Our world is: A physics class in South Korea with a NASA engineer; an environmental assignment group in Brazil with a Harvard/MIT, Marie Curie fellow in marine biology, about the Amazon’s natural “gifts;” literature experts like Barry Cotton and Michael Dobson leading classes on “The Great Gatsby” and the “Twelfth Night,” to 11th graders in Vietnam and Moscow, respectively. Your students, asking the questions that inspire them, and getting answers from mentors across the world.

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