Part Two: Discussion and Considerations for Mentoring Models and Approaches

Please cite this publication in the following format:
Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation. (2016). Faculty Mentoring for Teaching Report. Toronto: Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto

Part Two: Discussion and Considerations for Mentoring Models and Approaches
Dyadic Model (One-to-One)
Key Considerations
Peer Supported Mentoring
Key Considerations


The literature and this study shed much light on the range of mentoring approaches and models that exist. This section addresses these findings and discusses possible options for faculty, administrators and staff to consider when embarking on/launching a formal program and/or revamping an existing one. Our recommendations for developing and enhancing mentoring for teaching guidelines, activities or more formalized approaches can be used in conjunction with existing faculty mentoring models/guidelines. They may also serve to engender new thinking about faculty mentoring that includes an in-depth teaching component. The literature included in this study offers multiple lenses into these processes, depending on the needs of each division and in turn, department.

As described throughout this study, effective mentoring for teaching can stem and thrive from a wide range of relations – dyadic, larger supportive peer groups (co-mentoring, mutual mentoring), and networks of enthusiastic and committed instructors who are intent on building and enhancing their teaching repertoires and confidence. The majority of faculty in our study defined mentoring within dyadic model terms but it may be that this is the most familiar to them and historically the one- to-one model has been the most visible model within higher education. However, participants tended to discuss more fluid relationships with their colleagues, sometimes in a dyadic, formal focused relationship with specific activities, while at other times they sought and engaged with instructors through larger network events. All of these activities and relationships were described in ways that align with the range of mentoring definitions and descriptors in the literature.

Faculty mentoring in general can address a range of academic position-related concerns and topics that emanate from the mentee — teaching is not a standalone component of this model. Mentoring for research, in particular, includes more topics that tenure stream faculty members are apt to be concerned about (e.g., striving to gain research funds), however these issues cannot be discussed in isolation from teaching and service. Faculty in both tenure and teaching streams face related challenges such as time management, stress, and general anxiety and isolation. These concerns have been documented in this study and elsewhere (Boice, 1998).(25) Evidence that supports successful and effective mentoring for teaching alongside participant experiences is included in this study and suggests that the more that faculty experience cultural support, the greater the number of conversational partners that they have within their context (Roxa & Maartenson, 2009). Such conversations and teaching development opportunities can bolster stronger and more engaged teaching communities. Boyle and Boice (1998) attest that mentoring program success factors include buy-in from university administrators, to ensure that faculty efforts to enhance their teaching are not a remedial notion but a core goal of the department and division. As Zellers et al. (2008), similarly note, this mentoring success stems from “visible support of senior administration” (p. 579).

Overall the various mentoring models may be situated along a continuum of formal/structured to informal/unstructured approaches. Generally speaking, the dyadic model as discussed first in this section has historically been a formal part of matching programs at many higher education institutions. As the U of T Divisional Scan indicates, there remains an interest in this more traditional model, perhaps because it has existed within a division for several years and no evaluations of its effectiveness have been conducted, or that there is no familiarity with other more recent evidence-based models. The list of considerations may serve as a starting point for interested parties to brainstorm what mentoring for teaching model can best suit the department’s teaching-related goals and objectives. The other model addressed in this section-peer mentoring support is more apt to occur as an informal format but complements and enhances more formal, administrative-supported dyad models.


As noted previously in this report, the Divisional Environmental Scan at U of T shows that 9/15 responding divisions indicated that a formal mentor-mentee match was made at the time of hire. However, there is a lack of accompanying documents that address the specifics of this relationship (including the goals, processes, structure and content that might be applied towards guiding these mentoring matches). Dawson (2014) (Appendix A) emphasizes that there is a need for clarity in defining mentoring. The author’s framework is a useful resource for important discussions at the departmental and/or divisional levels that can trigger thinking on key topic areas such as choice of design of a mentoring model (why, for example, one-to-one?). By addressing each of the elements in Dawson’s framework the resultant choices become more transparent and communications are clarified as models are selected.

The literature and findings in this study suggest that dyadic mentoring relationships can serve as a foundational model for faculty to build their repertoire of skills in their new academic environment. Intentional and purposeful one-to-one mentoring, however, is more likely to be successful and effective if the mentor-mentee match involves a number of elements/criteria (Dawson (2014), with a key focus on experienced, informed/skilled mentors in these roles. In this way, mentors serve as the point person to ensure teaching-related concerns and interests are met. Skilled mentors have the information and knowledge of existing supports to share with the mentee across the university (and in some cases, beyond) – be that intra/ inter-departmental peer support groups and/or broader teaching and learning communities. It is important to ensure that all faculty and senior administration are cognizant that mentoring for teaching activities should be viewed as a positive activity, not a remedial notion.

A key issue throughout dyadic mentoring relationships remains how to identify skilled mentors for teaching, and locating faculty with pedagogical expertise that is key to a positive mentoring relationship for both parties. Departments and divisions planning for mentoring are encouraged to carefully consider the criteria for selection and the process and mechanisms for orienting mentors into their voluntary roles. Dawson’s (2014) research also offers guidance and probes for examining the mechanisms to be developed/enhanced when inviting skilled mentors into a more formalized mentoring structure. Several elements of Dawson’s work are included in the list of considerations below and this list of elements is invaluable when moving forward with a mentoring for teaching model, whether formal or informal.

Key considerations

Department Chair or Divisional Dean:

  • conduct an informal assessment/scan of whether there are current dyadic mentoring relationships in one’s department and/or division, and if so how these are formed, the format, frequency, content, resources/ tools used, and insights on what has worked well and where gaps remain in existing mentoring relationships. Such information-gathering may lend insights into what mentoring model is supported by the key players in the department. Related to this scan/search/data gathering consider these points:- recognize that mentors invariably serve a greater purpose, beyond support for the mentee and building their own leadership skills – they also play a key role in capacity building. Reflect on the ways in which both mentors and mentees might spur new thinking regarding the specific needs for advancing teaching and learning in the department (e.g., being advocates for engagement in activities to enhance faculty teaching).- be cognizant that new faculty may not have pre-existing academic, cultural and personal connections in the department or broader institution (e.g., new to Toronto, the country and our higher education systems). Consult broadly, as noted above, to ascertain what new faculty are seeking in a mentoring relationship, specific to their particular teaching issues.
  • if formal and structured mentor models are not the preferred approach, consider avenues for new faculty to be intentionally introduced to peer and larger department and divisional groups and networks (e.g., at a minimum, identify a teaching ‘expert’ or point person).
  • strongly consider Dawson’s (2014) framework (Appendix A) and keep in the forefront the U of T context in stating the objectives of a mentoring model. This may, for example, mean explicitly stating what is to be achieved teaching-wise in one’s department or division. Perhaps the key objectives stem from departmental teaching and learning initiatives or broader university-wide priorities.
  • when developing specifics on mentor and mentee roles consider the elements (Dawson 2014) of ‘relative seniority’ in defining who is recognized as a mentor (e.g., experience levels? award winning teachers?) For the U of T context perhaps an Associate Professor, TS in the department has developed specific pedagogical expertise that is of value for a mentee. This report identified the dearth of leadership opportunities for teaching stream faculty, in particular.- departments and/or divisions might generate a list of possible (interested and voluntary) mentors and their identified expertise and/or request that interested mentors submit five brief responses to questions regarding their approaches to teaching and student learning, the variety of teaching contexts in which they have experience and skill-sets (seminar, large class), to provide information on varied skills and expertise available.- each department and/or division may in turn develop its own database of teaching ‘experts.’
  • consider whether mentor selection includes requirements for mentor skills training (or equivalent).
  • consult widely with faculty when examining how mentoring can be viewed as service/leadership and be recognized for its contribution to the department and division as a whole. Participants in this study shared that this is important and part of enhancing mid- career leadership opportunities.
  • in making decisions on the voluntary/mandatory aspects of mentoring for teaching, use a best practice that clearly articulates the benefits to be gained for both parties in the match. In this way, the mandatory element is not deemed to be punitive but rather, about enhancing one’s teaching and embarking on steps to fully prepare for one’s academic position (e.g., preparation for strong tenure and promotion documentations).
  • departments may also choose to monitor and evaluate how (or if) these mentoring programs are being implemented and if/how effective they are at achieving desired outcomes. Such intentionality will result in continual improvement of mentoring relationships and in reaching stated objectives and outcomes of the mentoring teaching models, guidelines and approaches.

Teaching Centres:

  • through a teaching centre’s campus contacts, and its ongoing network of workshops facilitators and insights on effective teachers, identify a list of potential mentors to share with departments/divisions.



While more structured peer mentoring is described in the literature as a key avenue and model for supporting faculty as they navigate their new roles, the literature and views of participants in this study point to a more informal approach that differs somewhat from the foundational, more structured and in the case of some divisions at U of T, dyadic model. Also referred to in the literature as co-mentoring, Calderwood and Klaf (2015) reported that peer mentoring constructs a community with a “shared engagement in common practice” (e.g., teaching) who learn from and with each other – a different configuration from the dyadic model. Participants in our study discussed peer support and mentoring much like this, demonstrating an overlap between what a dyadic relationship entails, and other one-to-one models. From the literature and participant reflections on their own mentoring relationships, it appears that dyadic models tend to include a more formalized approach and peer, co- mentoring, or mutual mentoring retains a more informal approach.

As participants in this study noted, peer mentoring is a collaborative practice that occurs, for example, between new hires meeting with one another to discuss a specific topic (e.g., a teaching strategy). Peer supported mentoring can also involve a more senior faculty member meeting with more than one junior faculty member. In other cases mid- career faculty meet with another instructor of a similar career stage to reciprocally share (for example, to observe their colleague’s lectures to strive for continual enhancement of their teaching). This is noteworthy as many formal mentoring programs target new faculty hires and yet faculty at all stages of their careers seek out ways to challenge themselves in their teaching and seek opportunities to do so.

Peer review of teaching can focus on formative approaches within a mentoring model that seeks to enhance one’s teaching and student learning. Many universities, such as the University of Windsor, have developed a Peer Collaboration Network that allow for faculty to meet and reciprocally observe and debrief in a safe, confidential, non-evaluative environment their teaching activities, beliefs and goals. This peer initiative developed observation checklists and includes a three stage meeting structure with faculty reporting the following about their experience in a pilot study of this project: “enthused,” “confidential”, [we get to be] “vulnerable” and “ultimately [of ] benefit [to] your students.”(26)

Departmental teaching-focused initiatives are key sites for emerging leaders to be both mentored and to provide mentoring opportunities. These occur in both a more formalized dyadic arrangement as well as in peer-focused models but also within broader groups, and learning communities and networks. As reported in this study, several participants, particularly in the teaching stream, cited the lack of teaching-related leadership roles available for them. They have initiated many departmental events or sporadically served as informal teaching mentors to new and more senior faculty. The following list of considerations can guide departments and divisions in achieving and enhancing a strong teaching culture and climate.

Key considerations

Department Chair or Divisional Dean:

  • similar to dyadic mentoring relationships, conduct an informal scan of existing peer-supported mentoring relations that foster support for teaching. Such information can identify existing gaps and opportunities to highlight existing collaborations.
  • the findings in this report highlight the important role that department Chairs/Deans can play in encouraging, enabling and intentionally supporting peer mentoring networks that serve as important vehicles to furthering teaching and learning goals.
  • increase the number and quality of departmental avenues to recognize effective teaching practices taking place and opportunities to discuss teaching-related topics (e.g., more frequent inclusion of teaching topics/updates at faculty meetings, highlighting teaching innovations or successes in departmental or divisional newsletters or communications)
  • the more discussions or increased number of “conversational partners” (Roxa & Martensson, 2009) in a department, the greater the likelihood that a culture will take hold and create the necessary climate for important teaching discussions to be had.
  • consider selecting a teaching champion and incorporating opportunities for these leaders to in turn meet, mentor, guide and essentially be available for new faculty or any instructor with teaching-related questions. Such leaders play a key role in building other teaching leaders and in capacity-building. There is an element of buy-in required to bring new faculty into the fold and to bring attention to the importance of teaching in the department.
  • intentionally create physical spaces for lunch-hour or other meetings, both formal and informal on a specific teaching topic identified by instructors (e.g., Brown Bag series, coffee/meet and greet opportunities)
  • invite faculty to share their ongoing involvement in external teaching and learning communities (e.g., Online CoP, SoTL Network, CTSI programming, participation in the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE)).
  • support community of practice but without a deliberate act to institutionalize them. As Smith et al note (2016), “CoP arise naturally in organizational life, and it is this organic and voluntary nature that make them thrive. Mandating their existence can undermine their very nature and success” (p. 4).
  • regularly communicate teaching and learning events (formal and informal) via department/ divisional avenues; such communication has been deemed a positive step to enhancing teaching cultures.




(25) The University of Toronto has recently obtained an institutional membership to the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity that supports academics in making successful transitions throughout their careers:

(26) The University of Waterloo is currently conducting research on its Teaching Squares program