"Fitness to Mentor:" A critical discourse analysis of volunteer assessment at Big Brother Big Sisters of Toronto

"Fitness to Mentor:" A critical discourse analysis of volunteer assessment at Big Brother Big Sisters of Toronto
By Amy Ellen Soden - 2014

This Major Research Paper (MRP) applies communication theory and practice towards the work I completed for my MPC internship placement at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST) with the service delivery department’s assessment team. I examined how assessors strategically interview mentor candidates for BBBST, and the assessors’ use of one primary document – the Assessment Interview Form (AIF).

Utilizing Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as my theoretical approach and Glaser & Strauss’ Grounded Theory as my mode of analysis, I explore the interactions between assessors and the AIF text when utilizing this document to interview mentor candidates for the organization. The findings of this MRP relate to existing successful practices within BBBST’s assessment team, gaps identified by team members in service delivery, areas for improvement, and ideas for future practice.

Key findings that came out of this study aim to assist assessors in determining what types of interview questions and content areas most effectively target information about a candidate’s suitability and fit for BBBST. The recommendations for BBBST are based on effective question types, topic areas, and ideas raised by the assessors themselves during our interviews. With a focus on what qualities determine a candidate’s “fitness to mentor” and how such qualities are drawn out and isolated within an assessment interview context, my MRP demonstrates the value of applying communication theory and practice towards a non-profit social services agency environment to improve front- line service delivery that is largely based on productive interviewing practices and effective decision-making.