November 28, 2023, Durham, NC – Implementing high quality training is an integral step in the process of building and maintaining a successful mentoring program. Research has shown that mentor training programs that prepare mentors to establish a meaningful connection with their mentee may directly impact mentee outcomes, volunteer retention, and mentors’ feelings of satisfaction and self-efficacy as a mentor. Training mentees about what a mentoring relationship is, what they can expect from their match meetings, and how they can benefit from mentoring may ease their anxiety and uncertainty about entering a relationship with a mentor, and therefore yield more positive outcomes for the mentee. In addition, training programs for mentoring program staff and parents of mentees may better prepare parents and staff to support the match and set them up for a successful mentoring relationship.

When selecting training programs to implement in your mentoring program, you want to feel confident that the programs you choose will have an influence on the mentoring relationships in your program and will effectively teach matches knowledge or skills that foster impactful relationships. Your program may be cautious or strategic when selecting training programs to ensure that the time, resources, and efforts it takes to implement a program will be rewarded with positive outcomes for mentees and mentors. In this case, it is imperative to choose a training program that is based on empirical research.

What are evidence-based and research-informed programs?

Evidence-based programs are interventions or curricula that have been directly and empirically evaluated, and are supported with documented evidence of effectiveness. Mentoring training programs are classified as evidence based when the research evaluating the program shows that it achieved its intended goal(s). For example, training programs for new mentors may be considered evidence based if research shows that the program increased mentors’ knowledge about mentoring relationships, helped them feel more prepared and confident to be a mentor, or gave them more realistic expectations for mentoring.  In addition to evaluating the positive impacts of training programs, research may uncover any adverse side effects of program use. These findings, as well as their implications, are important to consider because they may highlight strategies to use or practices to avoid when implementing the program to achieve the best possible outcomes. Research-informed programs are interventions or curricula that integrate existing research and best practices that are relevant to the program into the program’s content. Evidence-based and research-informed mentoring training programs often provide standardized, manualized, and validated methods for achieving positive outcomes in mentors, mentees, parents, or mentoring program staff. Therefore, if your mentoring program selects a training program that is evidence based or research informed, you can be reasonably confident that the program will have positive impacts on the matches you serve.

Though a mentoring training program may be considered evidence based, it is important to note the quality of the evidence supporting the program. For example, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials conduct more rigorous evaluations of program effects and therefore, generally produce more reliable evidence than quasi-experimental and non-experimental studies, which often do not involve a control group, random assignment, or other rigorous research methods. To learn more about credible evidence of program effectiveness, visit James Madison University’s website.

How to choose an evidence-based or research-informed program.

In addition to ensuring that the training program you choose to implement is supported with credible research, you should also consider if it is relevant to your mentoring program and is simple to implement and sustain.

Some programs are designed to train matches that meet in specific locations or formats, such as online or in person, or to train mentors serving youth with specific needs and goals, including at-risk youth or youth in specific developmental age groups. Training program evaluations may indicate that the program has positive impacts on the subgroup of matches or youth it targets but not on other subgroups. Be sure that the program you choose to implement is relevant to the unique characteristics and needs of those you serve, so you can increase the chances that matches will experience positive outcomes. For example, if some of the mentees your mentoring program serves are at high risk for substance misuse, you may consider implementing a training program that is designed to prepare mentors to serve youth impacted by substance misuse. Alternatively, if mentors in your program meet with multiple mentees at once, you may consider implementing training programs that are designed for group-based mentoring programs.

In order to maximize the potential positive outcomes for mentors and mentees you serve, it is important to ensure that your mentoring program has the capacity to support implementation of the training program you choose and that you follow all suggested strategies and practices for implementing the program. The research supporting evidence-based mentoring training programs may not only examine the impacts of program use on mentees’ and mentors’ skills, knowledge, or behaviors but also the usability and feasibility of the program. For example, research findings may indicate that previous program participants found the program’s design, format, or materials helpful, or that program administrators believed the program was well-suited for their mentoring program and their existing mentoring practices and routines. By selecting a training program that is evidence based, as well as examining the evidence supporting the program, you may improve your chances for a smooth program implementation process and therefore positively impact the matches you serve.

Where to find evidence-based and research-informed mentoring training programs.

If you are ready to start looking for evidence-based and research-informed mentoring training programs to implement, the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) provides a vetted database of resources for mentoring programs, including mentor training. In addition, attending conferences, such as the National Mentoring Summit and reaching out to researchers who have developed and evaluated mentor training is another way to increase your chances of finding evidence-based training.

Mentoring Central, a division of iRT, offers several evidence-based and research-informed training programs, including both core and advanced mentoring trainings for mentors, mentees, and parents or guardians of mentees. We offer both online and in-person program options, as well as options for site-based, school-based, and group-based mentoring programs. Some of our evidence-based and research-informed training courses and resources are strategically designed to meet the unique needs of special populations of youth.

Mentoring Central prides itself on cutting-edge mentoring training programs that are supported with high-quality, innovative basic and applied research. Many of our training programs have been rigorously evaluated in randomized controlled trials and have demonstrated positive outcomes for trainees. For example, mentors who have completed Mentoring Central’s core mentor training courses have reported feeling more ready to begin mentoring, self-efficacious, and knowledgeable about the roles that mentors should and should not play, and had less unrealistically positive expectations about mentoring.

Some of Mentoring Central’s evidence-based and research-informed mentoring training programs include:

  • Building the Foundation for Mentors: This course helps potential prospective mentors determine if they’re ready to begin mentoring, understand the roles mentors should and should not play, prepare for meeting their mentees, and commit to the mentoring relationship. Building the Foundation is offered in both web-based and in-person training formats and has been adapted for community-based, site-based, group-based, young adult, and e-mentoring
  • Building the Foundation for Mentees: This interactive, web-based training course gives mentees a strong foundation and motivation for their mentoring relationship by providing them with an understanding of what they can get from mentoring and what they must do to help build and sustain a strong, positive mentoring relationship.
  • Building the Foundation for Parents: This web-based training course helps parents understand what mentoring is and what a mentor does, how they can support their child’s mentoring relationship, how to communicate effectively with their child’s mentor, and when to communicate with their mentoring program staff.
  • Ethics & Safety: This interactive, web-based training course helps mentors learn the code of six ethical principles of mentoring, so they can learn appropriate responses to ambiguous or risky situations with mentees, ensure mentee safety, and help build their mentoring program’s reputation.
  • Building and Maintaining the Relationship: This web-based training course provides mentors with real-world scenarios, ‘how to’ tips, and virtual experiences for establishing the skills needed to build an enduring relationship. Mentors learn how to build trusting relationships with their mentees, foster collaboration and shared decision-making with their mentee, learn to help mentees set goals, and build relationship closure skills.
  • Substance of Change: This web-based course is a key resource for your mentoring program if you are interested in training your mentors about opioids, how opioids can affect the lives of mentees, and practical strategies mentors can easily learn and use in their everyday interactions, so they can be a positive change agent in the lives of their mentees.
  • Promoting Enhanced Resilience & Learning (PERL): The web-based PERL learning program translates the latest research on the factors that positively influence school functioning into practical strategies that mentors can easily learn and use in their everyday interactions to create teachable moments with their mentees.

If you’re interested in receiving more information about our mentoring training programs and resources, visit our website for a full list of our offerings.