Date of Award

Spring 5-2008

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Research

Committee Chair

John Rachal

Committee Member 2

Lee Pierce

Committee Member 3

Lin Harper

Committee Member 4

James T. Johnson


A qualitative study using grounded theory was conducted to determine the use of adult education principles in a school mentoring program. The study was conducted in a middle school in rural South Georgia during the 2006-2007 school year. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with 25 participants: 11 proteges, nine mentors, and 5 mentor program coordinators. Insights into the dynamics of mentoring relationships and administration of the mentoring program were illustrated by stories of selected participants.

In this study, adult education principles were identified as (a) respect, (b) participation, (c) collaboration, (d) dialogue, (e) problem posing as a catalyst toward problem solving, (f) critical reflection, (g) self-direction, (h) praxis or learning for action, and (i) empowerment.

By constantly sifting and sorting the data and looking at the program’s data holistically, patterns and themes emerged. Patterns showed that volunteer status, level of training, and participants’ readiness played an important role in the quality of mentoring relationships. Themes that emerged from the data included (a) communication and rapport between mentors and proteges, (b) readiness for the roles of mentors and proteges and (c) interrelation of rapport and readiness. Through the use of grounded theory methodology, it was determined that the school’s mentoring program was not conceptualized or administered as a form of adult education. Mentoring relationships within the school reflected no consistent awareness or use of adult education principles. Principles most likely to be used were respect, dialogue, collaboration, and participation. Least obvious were problem posing as a catalyst to problem-solving, critical reflection, incorporation of previous experiences, self-direction, praxis, and empowerment.

Recommendations were made for more conscientious pairing of mentors and proteges, improved participant readiness, and enhanced mentor training. Most importantly mentoring programs should be viewed as adult education and mentors should be willing and trained to accept this role. Further study was recommended regarding the concept of group or multiple mentors and the general use of adult education principles in workplace training.