In order to create the most effective program possible, we recognize the need to have a well-structured agenda. As Burrell et al. explain, effective mentorship involves five processes:
- An intentional process: Our program is a reflection of our intent to have a positive impact on these youth.
- A nurturing process: The mentors will work closely with the students and will help spark and maintain their motivation as well as guiding them towards success.
- An insightful process: It is our mission for the students to acquire and develop independent and collaborative skills during the program.
- A protective and supportive process: The mentors will encourage cooperation and friendly competition by supporting his/her team and thereby giving the students a sense of collective identity and team spirit.
- A role modeling process: The mentors will conduct themselves as role models through words and actions and will seek to advise the youth and answer questions that they may have.
Educational programs are becoming increasingly centered around test preparation and filling in gaps in specific subject matters rather than galvanizing positive attitudes and excitement towards science, technology, and other areas of study and nurturing cooperative learning in exploring how to solve real-world problems.
The InnoWorks program is novel in its more holistic goals of introducing students to a world with role models and mentors, which may be otherwise few and far between. Although we do hope to teach students specific skills in science and engineering, our main impact potential lies in improving the attitudes of the youth to hopefully lead them to continue exploring the fascinating world of science and technology.
InnoWorks seeks to cultivate friendships between the staff and the students through the discovery of challenging, innovative problem-solving activities. It is also distinctive in that the program is completely run by volunteer college students who want to share their own passion for science, engineering, and technology, which will hopefully make the students more receptive to a field that is widely thought to be a key backbone of societal progress.
Although the program this year only lasts for a week, we hope to develop a web forum to continue the mentorship process and engender a lasting impact. There are several motivations for continued contact. The first is that it is believed that the most successful mentoring programs continue beyond just planned activities. As DuBois and Neville point out, "it may be necessary for programs to establish mentoring relationships ... that involve patterns of regular contact over a significant period of time" (DuBois and Neville, 1997). The web mentoring will also provide a good method for us to continue monitoring the areas of impact InnoWorks had or did not have for the students, and to continuously assess how to improve the program to better meet our goals.
There has been a great deal of research on all sorts of community service projects, including mentorship programs. However, there is scant material on our specific type of program. InnoWorks plans to investigate the impact of intervention that our supplemental educational program has on the students.
To do so, we intend to develop pre- and post-surveys that are geared towards accessing the attitudes of the students towards science and engineering and how they may have changed as a result of the program. There will also be implicit evaluations of skills development throughout the course of the program.
More qualitative analysis will be conducted through a case study investigation of the dynamics observed between the college-student mentors and these youth, that documents their progress during the week and observations of their learning styles, what works well and what doesn't in motivating them, etc. These qualitative observations will be compared with the surveys to look for similarities and differences in the mentors' perceptions and the students' perceptions. The web forum will provide a good way of monitoring long-term impact as well as sustaining the influence we may have on the children.