Academic mentors serve as role models for students engaged in the learning process. While tutoring is often included in his or her function, the responsibilities go far beyond simple instruction outside the classroom. A mentor of this type will provide a positive example in attitude, serve as a counselor and confidant to the student, and ensure the student takes advantage of all resources that are available to help with the learning process.
The academic mentor is often another student enrolled at the same institution of learning. Since the relationship is more of a peer to peer situation, the student is often more open to the suggestions of the mentor. Often, a mentor can connect and support a student in ways that are not possible in a simple tutoring situation.
An academic mentor may be assigned to a student by an institution or sought out by the student who senses he or she needs support in order to successfully pursue a course of study. At the heart of the process of effective mentoring is the relationship with the student. This involves assessing the current level of knowledge held by the student, as well as evaluating study habits and identifying any impediments to the learning process that may be present.
Once the mentor has a basic understanding of the skills a given student has, it is possible to tailor the tutoring process so that those skills are used to best advantage. At the same time, the academic mentor will attempt to broaden the range of that skill set by encouraging the development of additional skills. For example, the mentor may discover the student is comfortable with researching online, but is unfamiliar with conducting research in a traditional library setting. While making use of the student’s ability to use the Internet effectively, the mentor will tutor the student in how to locate reference materials in the library using a card catalog.
The academic mentor will also make sure the student is aware of any on campus resources that may prove helpful in the learning process. This may include such options as study groups, free seminars, and other tools that the mentor deems may be helpful. If appropriate, the academic mentor may accompany the student to these types of events.
Along with serving as a tutor and making sure the student is aware of access to all available learning tools, the academic mentor will also actively set and example of productive learning and solid study habits. This means the mentor is likely to study along with the student, providing the opportunity for the student to observe the skills in action that the mentor is encouraging. While teaching by example is not always the method employed by tutors, an academic mentor often uses this approach to bond with the student and help develop a rapport that encourages open and honest dialogue between mentor and student.