The educational concept of mentoring dates back thousands of years to Greek classical mythology.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses’ son Telemachus was cared for by his close friend, Mentor, while Ulysses was absent for 10 years. Mentor was a wise guide and special protector who helped develop Telemachus’ character.
A more contemporary definition of the word by Pleiss and Feldhusen (1995) describes a mentor as “adults who introduce students to ideas, theories, tools, activities, or careers in their own fields of experience” (p. 159).
Research shows mentors and role models are a positive and useful addition to helping gifted students develop. They provide encouragement and support by offering intellectual stimulation, setting an example, and understanding the mentee and their needs.
A mentor can see things that a mentee may not see in themselves. Exposure to a mentor who is willing to share their interests, time and skills is one of the most valuable experiences for gifted students and previous studies show girls achieve more when mentored.
Gifted girls are an incredibly diverse group and they learn at a rate that is very different from other students in accordance with their exceptional intellectual abilities.
Often the asynchronous development between their intellectual ability and their social and emotional development can have social ramifications on their interactions and friendships with same-age peers.
Sharing experiences with a like-minded older student or adult can develop their self-concept and self-efficacy, increasing their ‘flow’. Mentor relationships with adults provide students with an insight into the mentor’s lifestyle, career and educational pathway.
I hope to contribute to the research on mentoring gifted students through the inclusion of mentorships with both older students and adults in Imaginarium courses and programs in the coming years.
- Pleiss, M. K., & Feldhusen, J. F. (1995). Mentors, Role Models, and Heroes in the Lives of Gifted Children. Educational Psychologist, 30, 159-169.