Dr. Òscar Prieto-Flores is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Girona. He is also a member of the research group in social mentoring. Dr. Prieto-Flores will be visiting the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring in Boston, Massachusetts from March until June of 2017 to broaden his knowledge about mentoring research.
How did you get involved in the mentoring field?
I got involved within the Nightingale mentoring network by my friend and colleague Jordi Feu. It was clear this program was having an effect on mentors and mentees. The benefits were visible on both sides. In the year 2007 we started to discussing the ethics of the program, which factors contribute positively to the relationship between a mentor and mentee, with other researchers in social mentoring which resulted in a collaboration.
What research project are you working on at the moment?
Is there anything you could already tell us about the outcomes of your research?
The language we use in Girona is Catalan. Through community-based mentoring they learn to speak Catalan by their mentors in informal ways because they only identify Catalan as the language of instruction at schools. We see that those who had a mentor get more self-confidence in speaking, as well as in making new friends of networks they did not have before. They also connect more with school language and the children behave more positively in class and, as a result of that, get better grades. Their educational expectations significantly grow when an immigrant child has had a mentor.
What effects have you seen on the mentor-side?
You mentioned doing follow up research on mentees. Have you considered doing follow up research with mentors?
What are the key factors of effective mentoring?
Another key factor is to involve parents or community members in the mentoring program. They should be informed and included. In that way the relationship between the mentor and the mentee can grow.
Finally, mentoring should be more relational. One person can make a difference, can act as institutional agent but it’s not for the mentor to ‘save a life’. The mentor is a connector and needs to connect the needs of the mentee to society/organizations/institutions and so on.
Could you give us an example of that?
Would you like to share an article or literature with us that has been inspirational during your work within mentoring and can you tell us why this has been inspirational?
Dr. Prieto-Flores: I really like a book from Paulo Freire called Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the following manuscript: Stanton-Salazar, R. D. (2011). A social capital framework for the study of institutional agents and of the empowerment of low-status youth. Youth & Society 43 (3), 1066-1109.One of the questions I always have in mind as sociologist is the existing connections between human development and structural inequalities and how they take place in youth mentoring. By reading Stanton-Salazar, I could understand these interconnected worlds better and it helped me to deepen my view as a sociologist doing research in the field of youth mentoring. These connections are also present in other relevant academic works such as Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Thank you for sharing all this with us. Finally we would like to ask you a question about the European Center. As you know, the Center was launched last March during the European Mentoring Summit. What do you expect from the Center and the collaboration of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring in Boston, Massachusetts and the European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring?
Dr. Prieto-Flores: I am always very optimistic. In Europe the mentoring field is upcoming while it is much more institutionally developed and immersed in the American culture. As a researcher I hope we can exchange knowledge through meetings and conferences to know deeper on how do we mentor in Europe. Furthermore, I hope we can give each other advice as companions and colleagues.Lastly, I hope the European Center will create a network of scholars in the field of Mentoring. Not only do I hope that the European Center can keep professors and scholars connected, I hope we can collaborate with practitioners in creating a database for all of the mentoring programs set out in Europe. Mentoring programs have grown specially over the past ten years in Europe, but we don’t know exactly how many programs there are and how mentoring programs are contributing to Europe 2020 targets.
These networks will also contribute to the quality of research we do as well as to the practical side of mentoring by creating a shared and learning space between scholars and practitioners.