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Mentor practices


Do you think, as a mentor, that it is better to give a student some guidance about how to find answers to his/her questions by searching rather than ‘spoon feeding’ ?
In guidance, I would include telling the student about reliable sources and how to find them.
’Spoon feeding’ is giving the student an immediate solution.

5 replies

This is an excellent question @Lochcarron , one not easily answered. As Mentors who don’t get asked very many questions, our tendency is to want to help satisfy the question with a direct response. The person asking for help is frustrated or else they wouldn’t have asked. If you respond to them to “go look it up”, it can be interpreted in a negative way, as if you don’t care. Here they are asking you and you reply to them to find the answers themselves? But as a good teacher or mentor, shouldn’t you be helping people to find things out themselves? My tendency is to do both, to make the person feel that they were right to ask, and then to point them to where a solution is. However, I would often ask them to please report back if this wasn’t the solution so further help csm be given. They need to feel as if it was okay to have asked their question and you are here to help.
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I was a mentor to new helicopter pilots for 4 years and as a martial art instructor I'm a kind of mentor to my students.

My approach is that people must ask. There is no such thing as stupid question and of course by asking you are not stupid. If you choose Not to ask then you'll be stupid!

Getting the question I encourage them to search for it by giving them some hints. Next day or time that we meet we discust about it.

That's how I do it!
Elias, your approach is excellent. You must be an effective Instructor. A frustration I often felt as a teacher was when students had questions but didn’t ask. I worked with young teens and they feared what their peers might think if they asked a foolish question. You need to establish a safe environment where people feel comfortable asking questions, whether it be in person or online. It’s so much more challenging online because you can’t see someone ‘s face. You can tell someone to look up the answer in a kind or an angry way in person, but online it can be misinterpreted. I have often seen where someone ‘s intention is to help the person seach for the answer, but it gets interpreted as being meanspirited and not helpful. So how can we make sure that when we direct someone to look it up we are doing this to truly be helpful .
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@Lochcarron , When I joined as a mentor, I saw many threads where learner was asking for some link (my course is full of various scales, exercises that are dependent on external sites). The reason I found in the first month was that thru out the course urls were scattered, and to help someone, anyone would pick (copy) any url in haste, often incomplete and post it to help learner/peer, then if it wouldn't work, another url. Since the course was very engaging, each query was replied by more then one person. Sort of, ok try this, not working, try this, so on. All this lead to chaos, no one could say without testing which url is complete and working. To add to it, the external sites were also upgrading with changed vendors. It was difficult to be sure that all the links in the course were working or at least one person has a full list of all urls that are routinely checked and maintained and can be used to help a learner in distress.
To deal with this dilemma, we all mentors pooled our collection of working links, created a thread where all these links were maintained and updated. Any learner who wanted a working link was directed to this thread. Since that learner must have already used/ tried scattered links, she/he must be really frustrated by the time they first ask and our directing to this thread was taken as "mentor not helping". Tricky, but we needed to stay firm, we involved Professor of the course and he was happy with this new experiment. It is successful from next session. We also added limited number of pinned threads detailing a walk thru of each week, right from content, to exercise, to assignments, to submission and technical glitches and how and when to contact Coursera help center.
Everything else was always related to course material- concept discussion, where we try to reveal part of it to give a beginning, and by adding some question towards end we direct them to where to look further for more details/ continuity. This has helped so far.
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I mentor on the Deep Learning/Neural Networks course, and I try to "help people learn how to learn", rather than "giving them a simple answer" whenever possible.
For that course (and its follow-ons) I treat the learners as though they were grad-school students, highly motivated to learn (and not just to quickly get a grade on a course).
And just like in grad school classes, some people don't have all of the expected background: so we need to do some coaching to develop their abilities. As an example, I see several students who are obviously weak at debugging code. So I'll respond to their questions by saying what next steps I'd take if I were debugging what they've posted as symptoms. I'm sure this frustrates some students, they'll think "why doesn't he just answer my question?", but it's also what I'd do in a classroom with the same problems.

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