Mentoring and Cultural Dimensions

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Challenges of Managing People: Mentoring Programs | |

In every continent, practitioners proclaim the belief that people are the bedrock of success in schools and colleges.....leading to a greater emphasis on the effective management of people.

(Foskett & Lumby 2003: 61)

Managing teachers to facilitate effective learning can be both rewarding and challenging. A teacher mentoring program, when implemented successfully, is one particular management tool that can bring both personal and organizational rewards. However, implementing such a program effectively is challenging. One notable challenge appears to be the correlation between the inherent cultural background (see footnote) of a mentor/mentee (see footnote) and the necessary characteristics and qualities required by a mentor/mentee, as recognized and generally accepted by informed research, to make such a program successful. Although many researchers discuss the challenges of cross-cultural mentoring (see Shore et al, 2008. St Claire-Oswald, 2007), my aim is to draw attention to the challenges that culture in general may pose when implementing a teacher mentoring program. |The terms ‘societal culture’ or ‘national culture’ will be expressed solely as ‘culture’ unless indicated otherwise. | |The terms ‘mentee’ and ‘protégé’ are interchangeable throughout this paper. |

These cultural challenges, in relation to the qualities needed for mentors/mentees, will be analyzed in light of both Hoefstede’s and Dimmock & Walker’s work on cultural dimensions. While my aim is not to contrast and compare certain cultures and whether one is deemed more or less likely to succeed in a mentoring program than the other, I do wish to briefly analyze the challenges educational managers in Hong Kong may encounter in their attempts to develop such a program, as well as their chances for success.

|Culture: What is it? |

When referring to nationality or ethnicity, Kroeber (1939) defines culture along the lines of: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a particular group, akin to people having a unique identity. Hoefstede (1991) uses the terms ‘shared ideology’ and ‘shared behavior’ in his similar definition. These definitions are by far not the only definitions available and, as pointed out by Dimmock and Walker (1998), culture is an amorphous and contested idea. But deeply rooted in the majority of definitions is the belief that people hailing from a particular country, region or ethnic origin have generally remarkable similarities in their perceptions of what constitutes the right and wrong way of doing things and these perceptions or characteristics may set them apart (significantly or insignificantly) from that of other cultures. In a similar vein, organizational culture, as defined by Ravisi and Schultz (2006), describes the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of a specific organization. They encompass ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue as well the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. Once again, it is clear that organizations may be set apart (significantly or insignificantly) from other organizations based on their ‘culture’ or ‘way of doing things.’ At this juncture I wish to mention that although organizational culture is not the central theme of this paper, Linda Smircich (1980) believes national culture drives organizations and that organizational culture is the product of national culture. Additionally, Dimmock and Walker (1998) recognize it is to be expected that processes and practices found in schools reflect national culture. If this is the...
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