Setting mentoring expectations

As a mentor, I’ve had quite a few students that ask for feedback. When I give them feedback, I get a “Thanks” and they end the conversation. I took the time to point out to one today that the best value in mentoring is an iterative back-and-forth process with multiple iterations. They responded that they assumed the interaction was meant to be a one-off.

Might it be worth trying to set expectations somewhere that mentoring often is an iterative process?


I believe so. Perhaps suggest that it is probably the most beneficial approach to adopt in a mentoring session, but that there is no obligation that it must be so.

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On Slack I once proposed an «Are you sure? [explanation]» dialog popping up when the student tries to end a discussion before submitting a second iteration or before the thread has accrued 4≤ replies. (4, so that «feedback please»–«[feedback]»–«ok thanks» does not immediately passes.)

I strongly agree with Isaac from the perspective of the mentor and the mentee. In some way, stating the expectations might make the mentoring experience more welcoming and encourage more students to request their first session.

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I do think it is worth trying to set expectations, and I do so by encouraging the next iteration, trying to set the expectations for me, and for them, for this specific exercise, for this situation, given what they have done in the code and in comments made.

For each feedback where I think it is at the point that another iteration comes in, I will encourage that with “I am looking forward to the next iteration.”

For each feedback where it is not necessarily important for submitting a new iteration, I will indicate that I am looking forward to some answers or clarifications, and after that happens, then I will encourage another iteration.

At some point, where there may be some indication of frustration, or “ready to move on” vibe, I will encourage them to open a new mentor slot by pressing that “End discussion” button.

I also will let them know that if/when they are ready to come back to this exercise, that they should feel free to explore when they find something that may apply to this exercise.


I believe this would be quite useful. The mentee, in having to respond to a dialog, at least has an opportunity to consider their response, so preventing reflexive responses.

Related to the matter of setting mentee expectations, is the issue of mentees not ending a mentoring session at all ! I am not at all sure why this is so.

Not sure if other mentors have similar issues, but I currently have over fifty three mentees in the Awaiting Students section of my workspace, over thirty of which I have not heard from for over three weeks. This despite repeated, polite enquiries into whether they wish to continue with mentoring, or end the session.

I realise that mentoring should be time-flexible, but I do not see how a mentoring session stretching out over several weeks or months can be beneficial to the mentee, or fair to the mentor.

So the expectation that a mentoring session should have a reasonable duration, but be finite, and that the mentee needs to end the session when mentoring objectives have been met, should be clearly conveyed.

Could this not be done when the mentoring request is made ? Or, could a more prominent reminder or prompt, not be displayed as part of the user interface ?

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I have learned to let it go.

I have had students come back to a mentoring session after months. I wouldn’t have wanted to have prevented this.

I have over 600 open mentoring sessions, some several years old :smile:

I finally ended up adding “close discussion” logic to my nudge script so I stop flooding Jeremy with bounced emails when I message accounts with inactive email addresses.

I currently have 678 awaiting students. When we moved to v3 I ended several hundred discussions that accumulated before that.

I have a little blurb I use after the initial student response that usually goes something like

You are welcome to submit another iteration based on the feedback if you’d like, or you can end this discussion to free up a mentoring slot, if there’s nothing else you’d like to do here.

Each day I look at awaiting students and for those who’ve reached their 8th day I send out something like

If there’s nothing else you’d like to do for this exercise, you can free up a mentoring slot by ending this discussion.

Somewhere you should be able to see “End discussion.” When you’re ready, clicking on it will end this discussion. Enjoy your next exercise!

After that, I don’t pursue them anymore.

I’ve had discussions necro’d from as much as a couple years ago.

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Agreed! I manually write something similar on my own sessions, especially when I see people asking generic questions with 1 iteration OR (inclusive) have low “reputation” OR (inclusive) joined recently. I will probably keep a snippet saved somewhere to reuse as you say!

Sometimes they do not End Discussion even after we’re done with the improvements and I’ve (not so subtly) indicated that it’ll de-clutter our inbox BUT we’ll still be able to post afterwards. I’m eager to see the functionality being unlocked after 100 mentoring sessions, but I prefer to proactively end the discussion if a few weeks pass and they don’t interact further (I give them ample time because they may be busy of course).

Similarly, I remind them that they may request additional mentoring sessions after we’re done if they’d like a second opinion, and sometimes I remind people about the “Learning Mode” (some are confused about why they cannot access all exercises). I also suggest submitting their solution for the community, as some seem to be hesitant.