How to Mentor, Supervise, and Manage Performance

Most forms of EL will involve some kind of mentorship, supervision and/or performance management. These practices are most obvious in situations where the EL opportunity takes place within your organization, such as co-ops, internships and work placements. But they are just as important for other kinds of EL. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of mentors and supervisors, as well as how to effectively leverage performance management, is crucial to ensuring a successful EL experience for you and the student.

  • A mentor is someone who has experience in carrying out a specific role and can provide advice and support. Mentors do not generally have any formal authoritative role, instead acting as a supportive and non-judgmental resource. Mentorship is typically a long-term relationship, extending beyond the EL experience and into the student’s entry into the working world.
  • A supervisor is a person who oversees and monitors the performance of the student, gives them input and direction, and takes corrective or disciplinary action if necessary. There should be at least one designated supervisor responsible for supporting and managing the student.
  • Performance management includes activities, tools and programs which ensure that individual, team, department or organizational goals are consistently being met in a timely and efficient manner. Performance management is not evaluation. Performance management will assist the supervisor in determining what interventions may be necessary to enhance, support and improve a student’s contributions to your organization.

While every EL partnership will have its own unique forms of mentorship, supervision and performance management, there are some key concepts and tips to keep in mind that can help ensure a positive and successful experience for everyone.

Beginning the EL opportunity

Before orientation: Students should be asked to identify three to five objectives they wish to achieve from the EL opportunity. The students should think about:

  • What they want to learn (goals/objectives).
  • Why they want to learn it (rationale).
  • How they might learn it (activities).
  • How they will know if they’re learning it (reflection/evaluation).

At orientation: Review the student’s goals, rationale and activities, and ask them to consider the following questions:

  • Why did you choose to take this opportunity?
  • What are you hoping to gain from it?
  • How do you think this experience may relate to your own career goals?
  • Are there ways of achieving your goals outside of this position or role?
  • What skills would you like to learn?
  • What skills do you already possess that you would like to improve?
  • What new knowledge would you like to acquire?
  • What skills, knowledge and experience do you already have that you can bring to this role?
  • Are the objectives you have identified attainable in this current role?
  • Are the activities you outlined measurable?

In the middle of the EL opportunity

Conduct a check-in half way through the EL opportunity. Include the student and any other team members who might be relevant to the meeting, such as mentors, supervisors and co-workers. Do not allow a mid-point check-in to be the first time the student receives feedback on their work. Be sure to touch base with them regularly throughout the experience. Visit the Resources section to access tools, tips and guidelines for helping manage students, improve their performance and help them achieve their stated learning outcomes.

The half-way point meeting should focus on re-evaluating the student’s objectives and making any adjustments to their work. Some questions to help stimulate reflection and conversation include:

  • Are the objectives originally outlined still realistic?
  • Are the measures originally outlined still realistic?
  • Is there progress toward meeting these objectives?
  • Are there any obstacles or challenges?
  • What are the biggest achievements to date?
  • What skills are being developed? Are their additional skills that should be developed?
  • How can we better help you achieve your objectives?

Finishing the EL opportunity

Students should be expected to report what knowledge, skills and insights they acquired to their supervisor or mentor, as well as their university. Set up a closing meeting with the student to review their overall performance and discuss their experience.

Before the meeting, consider the following questions to help frame your conversation:

  • What are the student’s major strengths as related to their learning objectives?
  • What are the student’s opportunities for improvement as related to their learning objectives?
  • Was there anything you would have done differently to support the student?
  • What value did you and/or your organization receive from this EL partnership?

Additionally, ask the student to reflect upon the following questions prior to the meeting:

  • How did the EL opportunity impact their own career goals and expectations?
  • What were the new skills they developed as part of this experience? What skills were they able to improve?
  • What skills did they not get a chance to develop that they would have liked to?
  • How was their overall experience? What would they have done differently or changed?
  • What expectations do they have of you after the EL opportunity has finished? Would they like a reference letter? Would they like to maintain a relationship for the purposes of seeking career advice in their field?

In some cases, you will be asked to assist in the academic evaluation of the student by their university. Each institution will have their own reporting and evaluation processes that you must follow. Go to Evaluating Students for helpful tools and tips.

Tips for supervising a student project

Some forms of EL involve a student or group of students working on a project either in-class or at an external location. Below are some general tips for supervising students in this kind of EL:

  • Establish expectations early between yourself, the student(s) and the instructor.
  • Clarify timelines, deliverables and your role.
  • Make sure you fully understand the Intellectual Property (IP) implications of any deliverable emerging from the project.
  • Be sure that you can meet the time and resource commitments the project will require of you.
  • Have regularly scheduled meetings with the student(s) to go over their progress and provide feedback.
  • Have regular check-ins with the instructor(s) to review progress and address any issues.
  • Be firm in your own expectations of final deliverables, but avoid micro-management.
  • Ensure that you understand your role in evaluation of the student(s), if applicable.