Mentors as facilitators of learning

Image Credit: The Alhambra, Granada, May 2016

An interesting discussion broke out on a call this week about mentees who don’t bring anything to talk about to their mentoring session.  We began by posing the question about whether such mentees really need mentoring.  But that quickly moved on to a more useful debate about the importance of ensuring pre-contractual information includes the responsibilities the mentee has (to do the work) and that includes bringing subjects for discussion to the table.  

** Tips for mentors and coaches supporting workplace apprentices and students**

Produce clear written guidance for coachees and mentees, giving information about coaching and mentoring, their role and responsibilities and the role of their coach or mentor.  

Provide your workplace, school or college with a set of criteria for selecting coachees or mentees and agree this with senior staff.  This is to ensure that a young person in need of counselling is not referred for coaching or mentoring.  

Provide an initial exploration session (group or 1:1) to ensure your young coachees and mentees understand the process. 

But what happens when your mentee is a student or just out of college, very inexperienced, or just not sure of what is possible?  In other words they simply don’t know what they don’t know. Surely then it is for the mentor to explore, probe and encourage the mentee, or as Carl Rogers put it, become a facilitator of learning. 

In Freedom to Learn (1983) Rogers advocates asking 5 questions as a facilitator of learning.  They seem to me to be an ideal in-road for those sessions when you need to help your mentee be free to learn, free to be curious, free to learn from others and to recapture the excitment of learning:

  • What do you want to learn?
  • What things puzzle you?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What issues concern you?
  • What problems do you wish you could solve?

These questions keep the mentee at the centre of the conversation, and they create a climate in which the mentee can set goals, be open to experience and find answers.



Rogers C., Freiburg H., (1983) Freedom to Learn, 3rd ed., Macmillan College Publishing Company, New York.

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