School engagement is an important predictor of graduation. One strategy to enhance student engagement is mentoring. Check & Connect is a structured mentoring program that has resulted in favorable outcomes for many students, including those with emotional and behavioral disorders. Effectiveness, however, depends on the quality of the mentor– mentee relationship. Although research has examined factors that increase relationship effectiveness, findings have been inconsistent. We explored the perceptions and correspondence of 166 high school students (i.e., mentees) with social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges and their mentors about the mentoring relationship and variables that contribute to relationship quality. Results indicated that mentors and mentees rated the relationship favorably and their ratings correlated moderately. Mentor and mentee variables examined (gender, ethnicity/race, age) were not significant predictors of relationship quality; however, specific topics discussed during mentoring sessions for mentors (family, friends) and mentees (school, future plans) were significantly related to their perceptions of relationship quality
Descriptive data from the current study indicated that both mentors and mentees rated all aspects of the relationship favorably. This is consistent with previous research that identified positive effects of mentoring (e.g., Sinclair et al., 1998). The predominantly affirmative mentor and mentor ratings might also reflect the risk population in the current sample. Specifically, DuBois et al. (2002) found greater effect sizes for studies with at risk or disadvantaged participants.
Interestingly, mentees’ responses to two matched questions (excited to meet with me/look forward to meeting, receptive to help/could ask for help) indicated they judged the relationship to be significantly higher quality than the mentors perceived their mentees would. This could be because mentors did not recognize the importance of the relationship to their mentees and/or that mentees may not have expressed how much they valued their experience. Furthermore, whereas 95% of the mentees liked weekly meetings, 18.8% desired more frequent meetings. This suggests that increasing the frequency of meetings may have been of further benefit to at least some of the mentees. In addition, 92.9% of mentees indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that they looked forward to meeting, whereas 78.5% of mentors agreed or strongly agreed. It is possible this difference could be attributed to the mentors finding mentoring burdensome at times, as it was a task in addition to their required activities. In fact, several studies have used outside mentors whose responsibility is solely to mentor students (e.g., Maynard et al., 2013; Sinclair et al., 1998; Sinclair et al., 2005). This arrangement might address student needs while reducing the burden on school staff.