By Barry Sweeny, 1996

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Some organizations prefer to hire a consultant to provide mentor training for the mentors-to-be on their staff. While this does provide access to the experience of an expert and to a proven training design, that approach has its limits. A better solution which I use as a mentoring consultant incorporates a "training of trainers" process in which I share my expertise AND I help you to become self-sufficient too. This paper explains how this approach works.
The result of this approach is that the organization can both access the experience and ideas of a proven mentor trainer and training design, as well as eventually develop a cadre of in-house mentor training experts of their own. This is particularly valuable since mentors will require on-going support, coaching, and periodic training, all of which should eventually be supplied by in-house staff. An additional benefit of this approach is that those who become the in-house mentor trainers will become even better mentors themselves.

The following sequence is one suggested method for such a "training of trainer's" approach.


1. Selection of the training cadre : It's best to try and select at least the initial training cadre from the group that designed the mentor training program. These are the folks who know the purposes to be attained and who have struggled to reach consensus on roles, tasks, etc. which will form the essence of the training content. It is also a wise idea to select several people, perhaps 3-4, to be the trainers. This allows working in several combinations, assignment to training sections based on strengths of the individual trainer, as well as promoting continuity across time when one or two trainers can not continue in that role and others must be developed to fill their places.

2. Define the role of the trainer cadre : The role of the training cadre is that they will serve as mentors to the mentors, at least during the training, if not afterwards. This means that the cadre must be able to model the best instructional practices and the qualities of effective mentors, and the knowledge and skills that mentors must learn.

3. Determine what teachers are likely to already know and what they will need to learn : The training cadre meets to discuss the Mentor Program's purposes and the roles and tasks of mentors. They discuss and reach consensus about the typical strengths of exisiting teachers likely to become mentors. The expectations for mentors and their probable strengths are compared to determine what knowledge and skills should be the focus of training content.

4. Develop questions to guide observation of a mentor training: The training cadre discusses and develops questions about each of the areas likely to be in the training. These questions should be written from the perspective of what the training cadre wants to learn about how to lead a mentor training and what the content of the training should include.

5. Hire a mentoring expert to conduct the first mentor training: or attend a mentor training elsewhere. The training cadre participates in a regular mentor training. They observe the trainer looking for the answers to their questions, taking notes on ideas and solutions to problems.

6. The training cadre analyzes the training experience & develops recommendations : After the "model" mentor training the cadre meets to compare notes, discuss options, and to reach consensus on what was important and what is useful. The cadre meets with the expert trainer to critique the training, ask questions and to clarify why specific strategeies were used in the training. The cadre develops a recommendation for what the training content should include and for what the training process should be like to deliver the content. The recommendation should also include the specific skills and strategies that mentors need to develop and a proposed process for facilitating that learning.

7. The mentoring consultant critiques the training design : The mentor training cadre and the mentoring consultant meet and review the recommendations for the training design, including both content and process.

8. Training design revision : The training cadre ( and perhaps the original program committee) revise the training design to incorporate the recommendations and all of the experience of the mentoring consultant, and the mentor program committee. The design is checked to ensure that it will accomplish the purposes of the program and that it aligns with the needs of teachers who will be the mentors (step #3 above).

9. Assign trainer responsibilities : The training cadre discusses their individual strengths as teachers/trainers and how they might best match their strengths to the needs of the training design. Individual preferences of the trainers should also be considered. Each part of the training should be assigned to at least two people, whether or not they will actual team teach it or not. In this way there will be a person who can lead a part of the training if the other person is unable to do so. If a part of the training is not assigned to anyone the mentoring consultant might do that part. In any case, some pair of people should assume the responsibility to work with the consultant in designing that part and eventually assume the leadership for that part.

10. Trainer preparation : The individuals in the cadre work in pairs to prepare the materials, details of the training sections, training strategies, resources needed, participant activities, etc. Eventually the whole cadre compares their plans and refines the training to ensure a variety of training strategies & activities and to ensure that the pieces fit well together as a whole. The cadre predicts the time each section and the whole training will take.

11. Training "walk-through" : Trainers schedule and conduct a "dress rehersal" which is observed by a representative of the program committee and the mentoring consultant. The rehersal should also be video taped to allow the trainers to self-critique and compare their own impressions with those of the two observers.

12. Final training design refinements : The cadre and the consultant (optional) meet to agree on final revisions to the tarining design, trainer assignments, activities, etc. The cadre discusses the role of the consultant during the training, such as to serve as an mobserver and coach. Design an evaluation for participants of the training to complete.

13. Conduct the training with mentors : The cadre conducts the actual training with mentors. The training is video taped to allow comparisons with the rehersal and to allow the trainers to self-critique their techniques and to revise their design. Conduct the evaluation by the participants.

14. Final design revisions : The training cadre (and consultant?) discuss the consultant and participants' feed back, the video, and their personal feelings about the mentor training. They make any final revisions to the training design and materials.

15. Plan for change : The mentor training cadre needs to expect and plan for future transitions in its membership. It is good to expand the initial cadre to include other experienced mentors as the program grows. Their personal mentoring stories and experiences will enrich the training.

You may copy and distribute this paper as long as it is free and you retain the following credits:
Barry Sweeny, © 1997, Resources for Staff and Organization Development
26 W 413 Grand Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187, (630) 668-2605, email- [email protected]