Oct. 11, 2019

Five strategies for successful mentorship in teaching and learning

The University of Calgary Teaching Academy presents The Mentorship Guide for Teaching and Learning
Teaching Academy Members

Isabelle Barrette-Ng, Serge Chalhoub, Mayi Arcellana-Panlilio, Barb Brown, Jo Towers, Lorelli Nowell

Taylor Institute

Finding the right mentor can transform your career. A mentee can benefit from opportunities for critical reflection and support through professional challenges. A mentor can benefit from a renewed sense of commitment to their field, a chance to work on their leadership skills and an enhanced sense of satisfaction from assisting less experienced colleagues.

Dr. Isabelle Barrette-Ng, PhD, teaching professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and 3M Teaching Fellow, and Dr. Lorelli Nowell, PhD, assistant professor in the Faculty of Nursing, led an initiative through the University of Calgary Teaching Academy to build on the group’s collective experience in mentorship to create The Mentorship Guide for Teaching and Learning.

Here are five strategies from the guide for a successful mentorship:

  1. Consider what form of mentorship suits your needs
    There are many types of mentoring relationships, from the traditional dyad model to group mentoring and distance models. When thinking about what model suits your needs, consider factors such as expertise, time commitment, levels of engagement and opportunities for professional networking and socialization.
  2. Assess your readiness for mentorship
    Ask yourself about what interests you in becoming a mentor or mentee. What are your goals and what do you hope to learn from the experience? Are you able to commit time and energy to fostering a productive mentoring relationship? Are you willing to provide and/or receive critical feedback?
  3. Find a mentor/mentee
    If you’ve decided that you’re ready for a mentoring relationship, consider approaching colleagues whose work inspires you. You might also try speaking to a dean, department head or peer to see if they can help you identify potential mentors or mentees and arrange an introduction. Then set up an initial meeting with your potential mentor/mentee to see if a mentoring relationship would be a good fit.
  4. Set expectations
    It’s valuable to discuss expectations around meeting frequency and the time period envisioned for the mentoring relationship. Take some time to articulate goals and outline strategies that define how you’re going to work together. Determine whether or not there is space in the relationship to manage emerging challenges that require immediate debriefing. These approaches help ensure that both sides stay accountable.
  5. Transition thoughtfully
    Mentoring relationships are constantly evolving. Some relationships turn into friendships and can last for years. Others are bound by time and development needs, and may require more formal closure. During times of closure, take time with your mentor/mentee to reflect on the lessons learned, the strengths and challenges of the relationship, and areas for future development.

Applying these strategies can help both sides ensure the mentoring relationship is productive. Nowell says, “One of the common challenges in sustaining mentoring relationships is unclear expectations and goals. I encourage those entering mentoring relationships to speak openly and honestly about their needs, expected behaviours, patterns of communication, and ways they will be accountable to each other.”

Mentorship is just one form of lifelong learning. It can take many shapes throughout your career, whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out. Barrette-Ng reflects, “Invaluable mentors helped me to develop a much broader perspective on teaching and learning for a much greater diversity of learners. I have also been privileged to gain equally or even more valuable insights into learning and teaching from mentees who have generously placed their trust and in sharing their experiences and ideas with me.”

Download The Mentorship Guide for Teaching and Learning

The 2020 University of Calgary Conference on Post-Secondary Learning and Teaching will explore Mentorship in Higher Education. We encourage all members of our university community to submit session proposals. The call for proposals will open Oct. 15 and close Dec. 11, 2019.