How to give advice?
The mentor as an advisorYour mentor group will be asking you questions. However, you do not need to have an answer ready for each and every question – sometimes a fellow first-year student may be able to provide an answer. This may result in the group becoming more involved with each other. You can also indicate places where students can find answers themselves. As a mentor, you will, however, often be the group’s first point of reference and you will regularly give them advice.But, good advice is all too often disregarded. How can you prevent this? There are different ways in which you can advise your students. Some ways are more successful than others.
A. Coercive adviceThe more coercive the advice, the greater the chance it will be disregarded. If you say: ‘You must do this and that’, about 90% will be against your advice, regardless of its quality. However, if you say: ‘I believe this is a good way’, or ‘I choose this option’, you will only have 25% opposition. The less coercive your formulation is and the more freedom of choice you give your group, the greater the chance that your advice will be followed.
|You should do…||I would do….|
|This is best||I would choose this option|
|This is the right way||I think … would be a good way|
|This the way||I like this approach|
|This is the only thing that works||This would work|
B. Advice with examplesAdvice is often supported by examples. If you say that students study 27 hours on average, there will always be someone who says that he or she doesn’t do that, or who knows someone who passes all their exams studying much less. In such cases it is a good idea to emphasise that, while this is perfectly possible, it does not work for everyone, and that these students are the exception to the rule. Research has shown that students study 20 to 45 hours per week, with an average of 27 hours per week.People taking themselves as the norm
Mentor: ‘The average student studies about 27 hours a week.’
Student: ‘I do far less.’
Mentor: ‘Let’s see what the rest of the group thinks.’
Mentor: ‘Let’s do a quick round: how many hours a week do you study on average?’
Student: ‘Well, that depends.’
Mentor: ‘Yes, you will probably work a lot harder during exam periods than in the week after the exams, but try to give an average?’
Students: ‘About 20, 25, 40, 45, 30, 35, 20, 15, 35, 35.’
C. Selective perception
Mentor: ‘Research shows that students who spend a lot of time studying get higher marks.’
Student: ‘Yes, but I know someone who got a 9 just by going to the lectures.’
Mentor: ‘That’s possible… exceptions apparently prove the rule. How many students do you know who do have to study for their exams?’
D. The trustworthy expert
Student: ‘I don’t really have to start studying at the beginning of the period, do I?’
Mentor: ‘I always went to all the lectures, but I would only start reading a bit by the fifth week of the semester. Those last few weeks were always really hard work – nothing but studying for three weeks, just to get it all done. Those last weeks are no picnic, and I often didn’t manage to finish everything.’
Mentor: (in a quick round): ‘Have you started yet?’
Mentor: (to everyone who has not yet started) ‘When will you start?’
E. Students giving each other advice
Student: ‘How do you deal with studying?’
Mentor: (looks around, stops at one person) ‘Does anyone have any ideas as to how to handle this?’
Student: ‘Do you have to make summaries of everything?’
Mentor: (makes a quick round with the question) ‘Do you make summaries?’ Incidentally, making summaries is not an aim in itself but rather a way of processing study material. Students who jot down from memory the main points of what they have just read will process and remember the material better.
This student’s answers will convince those who do not usually make summaries that it can be a valuable aid in remembering the subject matter.Mentor: (to someone who makes summaries) ‘Why do you make summaries?’ and ‘Doesn’t that take a lot of time?’ and ‘Does it help you remember the subject matter better?’
Becoming a Student Assistant: Teaching and Mentoring
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