A Mentoring Journey Of Professional Learning

The new Spectrum Academic Mentoring (SAM) website was recently launched. This was an event that inspired reflection on a journey that has explored the important contribution made by mentoring to academics working in higher education.

The catalyst for developing SAM was the feedback we received from Learning and Teaching Award Winners in 2009 when we asked them about their experience of applying for an award. These academics explained how being mentored through the process had a significant impact on their success.

In 2010, using the funding we were awarded from the former Australian Learning and Teaching Council for a project called the Promoting Excellence Initiative, we began to systematically research mentoring in Higher Education.

We found that there were very few qualitative research studies on mentoring in Higher Education. But mentoring, in all its forms, was widely practiced and furthermore heavily relied upon for professional learning and development.

We deliberated over: what approach to mentoring would be sustainable in an ever-changing academic environment and how the approach could reduce possible pitfalls for mentees and mentors? After conducting a review of the available literature and considering these questions closely, we designed an evidenced based approach to mentoring that empowers mentees to choose their mentors and the type of mentoring relationship.

We published the first edition of our mentoring guide for mentors and mentees in 2010. Then in 2012 we continued our research and conducted a survey and interviews with academic mentors and mentees. This research is now published in Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development  and The Australian Educational Researcher.

In 2015, our approach to mentoring was nationally recognised with our citation for ‘Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning’ from the former Office of Learning and Teaching.

This year (2017) we have launched our new website and published the second edition of our mentoring guide, which outlines a step-by-step process for how mentors and mentees working in partnership or as a group, set the goals, timeframes and parameters for how the relationship will work. Our guide identifies key skills for mentees and mentors and provides an easy step-by-step process for both mentees and mentors, including checklists and reflection activities.

Over this time, we have found that all successful mentoring relationships are built upon reciprocal and collaborative experiences of mutual learning – if you would like to become a mentor or are interested in finding a mentor please visit our website and begin your mentoring journey.

The SAM Team: Dr Trudy Ambler, Dr Marina Harvey and Dr Jayde Cahir.