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Listen to Professor Michael J. Karcher’s presentation that he delivered in Auckland last month


We were delighted to host Professor Karcher, Unversity of Texus, leading United States mentoring researcher and co-editor of both editions of the Handbook of Youth Mentoring, last month for a presentation in Auckland. 

We were completely humbled by Professor Karcher’s commitment to offer the best possible support during his brief visit to NZ – to the extent that he decided to revise his planned address and undertake significant research into NZ circumstances

We took the opportunity to record Professor Karchers address and have included the link to the recording.  It is just over an hour long and finishes just before a video clip he used from the Kung Fu Panda movie which depicts the need as a mentor to ‘trust the process - it is not about trying to fix the young person’.

In his presentation, Professor Karcher really explored the continuum of developmental relationships between adults and young people to help define mentoring and describe how it works.  He spoke at length about the concept of VIPs – ‘very important people’ in young people’s lives and referred to an excellent quote by Richard Lerner (Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University) “Our calling someone a mentor does not make them one. No one is a mentor until the mentee sees them as one”.

He spoke about valuing both the Developmental Mentors vs Instrumental models of mentoring - relational focus vs future goal focused mentoring.  Depending on the mentoring programme and the age of the young person, a mentoring relationship may start out more relational focused vs future goal focused. 

Prof. Karcher encourages programmes to help mentors think about:

  • Focus—how directive they are being (developmental is less, instrumental is more directive)
  • Purpose—adult, conventional, future-oriented goals or playful, fun, youth-oriented goals
  • Authorship—who selects the activity and conversation topics and how?

He shared an excellent chart describing a range of actions and roles within the four poles of TALKING, PLAYING, LEARNING and DOING, with young people exercising the power of choice.  This really illuminates the action experience in sessions and will be very helpful for mentors in positioning their practice.

Another key message which attendees really valued was the importance of saying ‘ Goodbye’ (preparing them for positive closure) and incorporating this into the end of every session via the 3:2:1 model of – three things that went well; two areas for improvement; and one hope for next time.  This reflective verbal focus on ‘wrapping it up well” really emphasizes the role of the mentor’s gift of significance and love, opening-up to kids to be more receptive – which ties in with what some pairs currently do through journaling – writing to each other –pre-session, then beginning their time together by discussing what the other has expressed.

His points on ‘avoidant attachment’ which is a defence mechanism of young people who lose ‘traces of hope of being loved’, and the huge importance of ‘an adult who conveys specialness to such young people, by consistently showing up, being available and expressing interest – ‘I value you for YOU, I like being with you’ really bought home to all that attended the presentation, the difference a caring person can make in the life of these young people.    

View recorded presentation here.

Additional resources:

 TEAM Framework 

 Handout on developmental and instrumental mentoring models 

 Article on Activities and Interactions

 2 Studies

 YouTube Links

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