Promoting goal management skills through mentoring programs

The 2011 Northeast Regional Mentoring Conference, Oct. 13-14 in Framingham, MA, will bring together more than 250 practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders in the mentoring field. The conference's numerous workshops, covering various themes, will ultimately connect the outcomes and power of mentoring.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be highlighting the conference with previews to some of the workshops. This post is courtesy of Mimi Arbeit, Ph.D. student at Tufts. She is a part of a team of researchers at Tufts, led by Dr. Edmond Bowers, that have developed a goal management system called Project GPS, which will be presented by Dr. Bowers at the conference.

Every day, youth in mentoring programs are setting goals, working to reach those goals, and regrouping in the face of challenges. Whether it’s earning an A in biology, making the marching band, applying to colleges, or learning how to cook something other than grilled cheese, talking about goals is an important part of any mentoring relationship.

Research from around the world has indicated that youth with strong goals and strong goal-directed behaviors exhibit the most positive development and the least negative outcomes. However, there are not many research-based tools out there to help mentors build and measure these critical life skills in young people.

Over the past two years, Dr. Ed Bowers has directed our team of researchers at Tufts University in working to fill that gap. We designed a set of tools that make talking about - and eventually achieving - goals through a mentoring relationship easier, more fun, and more effective in promoting youth’s positive development. We call this system Project GPS, and we’ve based it on the most cutting-edge research on youth development as well as feedback from youth-serving professionals from around the country.

Project GPS includes a comprehensive series of quick and easy measurement tools, known as rubrics. There are also nearly 30 fun activities, inspirational videos of young people talking about goal achievement, and much more.

[caption id="attachment_397" align="alignright" width="232" caption="Project GPS "road map" visual"][/caption]We will be presenting Project GPS at our workshop at the Northeast Regional Mentoring Conference. Our workshop will add to the knowledge of the mentoring field by teaching participants about the structure and function of goal-management skills in youth, introducing tools for teaching and practicing goal-management skills through a mentoring relationship, and explaining how these tools can be used to measure and maximize the impact of mentoring programs on the development of goal-management skills and youth.

Our session will introduce these tools using interactive activities and we will discuss different options for implementing these tools in a variety of mentoring contexts.

To find out more about Project GPS and how you can promote goal management skills in the youth in your program, email Mimi Arbeit at or come to our workshop at the Northeast Regional Mentoring Conference.

Project GPS is a project of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, directed by Dr. Richard Lerner.