YodaSmThis is based on an article from GeekWire that lists the top ten reasons why Yoda would make a terrible mentor and teacher. Let’s see if I can make a derivation and convert these reasons as to why Yoda would make a terrible mentor/teacher in medicine.


10. Micro-manage much?

Yoda never took into consideration the mentee’s motivations, desires, and mental states, which made for a very inefficient relationship. It also looks bad when Yoda is on Luke’s back and directing all of his moves. That level of micromanagement does not lend itself to the best situation for communication, which is a very complicated process and of essence in a learning environment.

9. Lack of transparency

It’s always important to tell your mentee what your reasoning is behind your decisions as an attending. They should learn how you go through the process of formulating answers so that they can do the same when challenged with similar problems or questions. If your reasoning is not explained, the student will never know why you arrive at a particular conclusion. Transparency also makes you more approachable.

8. The importance of goals

“Because I said so” should not really be an answer. Explain why and how the exercise/ activity/ challenge will make them better doctors. Jointly come to a decision as to what the goals of the shift are; be it seeing more patients, managing more critical care patients, working on procedures, or teaching medical students. The ultimate goal is to make of them a better doctors, take better care of patients, and be more proficient at skills. There should not be a hidden agenda. All cards should be on the table. Yoda was so secretive, and for some reason things needed to be figured out as riddles.

7. Communicate clearly

This has to overemphasized. Communication is everything. Everybody needs to be on the same page. The Geekwire article states “finding a way to minimize information friction should be job one for all mentors.” As you remember, Yoda did not communicate clearly, I mean really, who talks like that?

6. Authentic assessments

The mentor/teacher should be aware of the learner’s knowledge and where that falls within the standard for that level of training. If the student hasn’t met these expectations, a plan should be laid out to delineate how to get there. There should also be benchmarks to let the student know whether s/he was successful. These assessments and benchmarks were not made clear by Yoda, which I would imagine made Luke more frustrated.

5. Authority problems

The mentee/mentor relationship is a delicate one, and all the authority should not fall on just the mentor. The relationship should be seen as a respectful collaboration going both ways. Without respect, the relationship suffers and the communication fails. Yoda was very frustrated at what appeared to be Luke’s lack of respect, but the respect did not come from Yoda either. Mutual respect leads to better communication and a conducive learning environment.

4. Constructed learning from existing contexts

Basically Yoda did not know how to motivate Luke to learn. Criticism needs to be well directed, specific, constructive, and connected to experiences that the mentee can relate to. Sometimes criticism are more welcomed when they come from a person that the mentee can relate to culturally, chronologically, etc. The point is that there has to be some common ground beyond the mentor/mentee relationship.

3. Dispel cult auras

Mentors might be too detached from the students. When the mentee or the mentor cannot relate to each other, the learning is more difficult. I’ve heard great podcasts where the attendings sound very down to earth, and this in turn makes the students feel more comfortable to learn from them. I went to a conference where Amal Mattu was lecturing, after lecture I approached him and called him Dr. Mattu, the first thing he told was to call him Amal. After that my conversation with him felt more like I was talking to a friend even though I knew how well renown he was.

2. Accessibility in all ways

The mentor creates a better learning environment when the mentee sees him/her as being approachable. This is much easier with technology in the present time. When we have a question, we can just go ahead and text or email someone. In contrast, Yoda was pretty inaccessible.

1. There is nothing magical about learning new things

All students should know that learning is hard, and that they need to put in a lot of work. No matter how stellar a mentor is, if the mentee does not put in the time, s/he will not get to master the skills necessary to be successful. The name of the game is repetition, there are no shortcuts.

Final thoughts

The mentor-mentee relationship is a very complicated one. If basic principles are followed, however, the process of learning and mentorship can be a mutually beneficial and joyful experience. Clear communication and mutual respect are the foundation in this relationship, which both parties should strive for.

Basically, don’t be Yoda.

Javier Benitez, MD

Javier Benitez, MD

ALiEM Featured Contributor
Javier Benitez, MD

@jvrbntz

Medical doctor, tweets not medical advice or endorsements. Interested in #MedEd & technology. Always learning. I'm no expert. No financial conflict of interest.
Javier Benitez, MD