Supporting mentoring relationships through distance technology.
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of mentoring and the reasons why individuals seek mentoring relationships, and to examine how mentoring may be supported through distance education technology. This study utilized a combined, qualitative and quantitative research design. In this design, the two paradigms were clearly separate, yet associated developmentally. In Phase One, a qualitative approach was utilized to identify key themes and questions. Four focus groups were conducted with a non-probability sample of occupational therapists who have supervised restricted practitioners. In this role, occupational therapists agree to be a mentor to the restricted practitioner. Two focus groups were conducted in rural Health Authorities and the other two in urban Health Authorities. Ethnograph v 5.0 software was utilized to code and analyze the focus group discussions. Common themes and patterns were identified and interpreted. In Phase Two, a quantitative approach was used to answer the research questions and construct knowledge surrounding the themes identified in phase one. A questionnaire was administered to a stratified random sample of occupational therapists to elicit their perceptions of mentoring relationships, mentor and protégé roles and behaviors, reasons for seeking a mentoring relationship, barriers to mentoring, and the feasibility of using distance education technology to support mentoring relationships. SPSS software was utilized to analyze the data. The findings of this study support previous research that indicates mentoring is a complex, multi-dimensional activity, which is complicated to define and categorize. Rather than having only one type of mentoring relationship, it seems that occupational therapists may experience a continuum of mentoring experiences throughout their career. There were three key factors identified as mentor functions: encouraging communicator, practice advisor, and career guide. These three functions comprised twenty-two behaviors, which reflect psychosocial functions and instrumental functions. Previous research is also supported by the findings related to precipitating reasons for seeking a mentoring relationship. The key factors identified in this study align with being new to the profession/practice area, isolation, and role strain. Many barriers impact the initiation and maintenance of mentoring relationships. The top four identified in this study are heavy workload, large client caseload, communication problems, and lack of willingness to mentor. Although many therapists feel a need to have some face-to-face contact with their protégé, the potential of distance education technology appears to be a realistic means of enhancing communication and support within a mentoring experience. The media of choice is e-mail, followed by the telephone, and Telehealth videoconferencing.