By February 22, 2017 4 Comments Read More →

Good news!: The “Elements” lead to effective practice

by Jean Rhodes

If you haven’t been using MENTOR’s Elements of Effective Practice (EEPM) you’re missing a golden opportunity to improve relationship length and strength. Of course, many mentoring practitioners know the EEPM well—in fact some have even witnessed its evolution from a somewhat unwieldy grab bag of ideas to a more tightly stipulated set of safety and evidence-informed standards and benchmarks. This shift toward evidence occurred with the release of the 3rd edition of the Elements in 2009, which relied more heavily on the input of a research and practice experts and less on consensus of large committees. A recent fourth edition updated the content.

The Elements are the field’s the most authoritative set of practices for designing effective mentoring programs. They include six core Standards, which map onto the life cycle of a mentoring relationship and focus on program practices that support the development and maintenance of effective mentoring relationships including

  • recruitment
  • screening
  • training
  • matching
  • monitoring and support
  • closure

The 48  Benchmarks in the 4th edition (23 in the 3rd edition) specify the practices that mentoring programs need to follow to meet each of these six the standards. The EEPM also contains Enhancements, which are promising practices suggested and informed primarily by well-functioning mentoring programs.

Now, a new study supports shows that adherence to the EEPM can lead to more effective practice. In particular, my colleagues Janis Kupersmidt, Katy Stump, Rebecca Stelter and I drew on archival data from 45 Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based programs across 28 sates, tracking program data through 2013. Program practices were assessed using a shortened, 31-item version of the Elements Quality Improvement Process (EQUIP) program self-assessment questionnaire (Kupersmidt, Stelter, & Rhodes, 2011). Mentoring staff reported on whether or not their programs were implementing the benchmark practices that composed each standard.

We found that greater adherence to the benchmarks and standards led to the development and maintenance of longer term matches. These findings, which are consistent with those reported in other practice literatures (e.g., juvenile justice, home visiting), provide encouraging (though not experimental) evidence that following the EEPM can enhance program length and strength. And, since relationship quality and longevity are the active ingredients of effective mentoring programs, it appears that adherence to the EEPM can lead to stronger effects. The results of this study also point to the importance of training for achieving these longer matches. In fact, training was the only EEPM standard that was independently associated with match length–the more training that mentors received the better. This finding is consistent with a related study in which we found that mentors who completed a web-based training program that included all of the topics required in the EEPM had greater knowledge, better understanding of the roles they should and should not play, and felt more prepared to be a mentor than mentors who only received training-as-usual by their mentoring programs (Kupersmidt, Stelter, Rhodes, & Stump, in press). Other studies have also found that pre-match mentor training predicts mentors’ relationship satisfaction (Martin & Sifers, 2012) and commitment (McQuillin, Straight, & Saeki, 2015).

Thus, adequate mentor preparation, particularly around the EEPM, may be the key tool for promoting both mentor satisfaction and longevity in matches. As we conclude, “Adherence to evidence-based benchmark practices has the potential of creating more satisfying, longer lasting, and effective mentoring relationships. Universal adoption of the EEPM compendium of safety and evidence-based practices will represent a paradigm shift from simply relying on practice wisdom to incorporating science into infrastructure, operations, and management of mentoring programs with the potential of profound impact on the development of millions of youth.”

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4 Comments on "Good news!: The “Elements” lead to effective practice"

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  1. Wonderful article!!! Where can I find the Kupersmidt et al assessment instrument (EQUIP) referred to in the article?

  2. Sorry, typo “their” states.

  3. This is wonderful news and affirms what we know to be true – that indeed best practices (EEPM) lead to stronger outcomes for mentoring programs and the matches that they serve. We are excited that MENTOR:The National Mentoring Partnership has created a free National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS) that will be available in the coming months for all Mentoring Partnership to help assess program quality in there states.

    Thank you for the research!

  4. Thank you so much Janis, Katy, Rebecca, and Jean for this new research into the effectiveness of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™! The team at MENTOR is thrilled about this confirmation that the principles we have been promoting organizationally to this field for many years are effective and can impact the “In Real Life” relationships that young people experience.

    MENTOR is currently undertaking additional research projects that we hope will further validate the practices recommended in that 3rd edition. We’ll see if training, specifically, is the aspect that seems to stand out the most in our studies! But needless to say, preparing mentors, youth, and parents for the journey of a mentoring relationship is always time well spent.

    A few additional things the MENTOR team would like to say about this important work:

    – We encourage practitioners to look at the current 4th Edition of the Elements (created in partnership with the study authors here!). As noted in this review, this research was on the 3rd Edition and we have added many more research-informed Benchmarks to the current 4th Edition (in fact we doubled the number of Benchmarks overall based on new studies and practitioner guidance). We hope that future studies also confirm we are headed in the right direction in clarifying effective practices based on new research.

    – MENTOR and the researchers here are also planning on producing supplements to the EEPM over the next year or two that amend and add to the recommended practices for specific youth populations and program models. As we all know, there are no “cookie cutters” in mentoring, but MENTOR hopes to work with the authors of this study and others to identify and codify additional research-informed practices that can further support programs utilizing innovative structures, operating in diverse settings, or serving traditionally hard-to-reach youth.

    – MENTOR’s recent survey of mentoring programs across the nation found that about a quarter of youth mentoring programs use the current 4th Edition of the EEPM in their work today. That’s good! Another 20% use it “a bit.” But about half of programs said that they had not consulted the guide in designing their services or were not aware of it at all. So if you haven’t reviewed the resource, this post is a good reminder to take a look at the Elements and see how your services stack up!

    Big thanks to the teams at iRT and CEBM for conducting this research and we at MENTOR certainly take great pride in anything that indicates our work is helping youth get the quality relationships they need. So stay tuned for more about the next iterations of the EEPM!

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