Date of Award

Spring 1999

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sharon Nodie Oja


The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, a quasi-experimental study was conducted to explore the cognitive developmental effects of taking on the role of "mentor" as an undergraduate or the role of "mentee" as a sixth grader in one university-based mentoring program. Second, an ethnographic study was conducted to study the experiences of ten sixth graders and ten undergraduates as they took on the role of "mentor" or "mentee" in a planned mentoring relationship. A sociocultural analysis explored processes occurring on the personal, interpersonal, and community level that shaped the mentoring experiences of the participants.

The participants in this study were 52 female undergraduates in their second year of college and 53 female sixth graders from six middle schools who met weekly in an after school mentoring program called Project Mentor. The undergraduates had enrolled in three sections of a two semester seminar which involved reflective writing, discussion, and readings about mentoring, tutoring, communication skills, and studies of adolescent girls. Comparison groups consisting of 33 sixth grade girls from five schools and 28 undergraduates from the same university also participated in the study. Network sampling was used to create the undergraduate comparison group.

Both the experimental and comparison groups completed the Paragraph Completion Method Test as a pre- and post-test measure of conceptual level. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed no significant differences between groups. Both the undergraduate experimental and comparison groups demonstrated growth. Post hoc analyses indicated that undergraduates in the experimental group with lower initial conceptual levels demonstrated the greatest gain. Flanders' Interaction Analysis was used to document differences in the learning environment in the three mentoring seminar sections. Undergraduates enrolled in seminar sections with more student participation and less direct instruction showed the most cognitive developmental growth.

For the ethnographic study, the experiences of ten sixth grader-undergraduate pairs meeting at three schools were documented through interviews, observations, written reflection papers, and log sheets. The developmental stage of each participant was assessed in both fall and the spring using the Subject-Object Interview. Through the stories of three pairs, a sociocultural and developmental analysis of their experiences being "mentors" and "mentees" is constructed.

Conclusions include suggestions for structuring mentoring programs to promote cognitive development, ways of conceptualizing mentoring, and issues in the development of mentoring relationships between early and late adolescents.