Section A: Findings
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
Research findings in this section draw from the Divisional Environmental Scan and Interviews with faculty at the University of Toronto. We conducted a scan to determine the current state of faculty mentoring programs and/or activities and to gather details and documents on mentoring guidelines across all three U of T campuses. In addition, we sought to capture whether mentoring for teaching was explicitly addressed in any guidelines, and finally, explored any processes to match mentors with mentees.
Interview themes were in part informed by the Interview Guide questions, developed from a preliminary search of the faculty mentoring literature, by the original request from a U of T Dean, and input from CTSI and Teaching Academy members, to ensure we captured data to inform possible mentoring initiatives/programs at U of T.
In this section:
Divisional Environmental Scan: University of Toronto
- Mentoring Processes/Structures
- Teaching Topics Addressed Through Mentoring
- Recommendations/Key Observations
- Defining Mentoring
- Mentoring Models and Approaches Experiences/Described
- Formal Match
- Informal Match
- Positive One-to-One Mentoring Experiences
- Challenges/Limitations in One-to-One Mentoring
- Other Avenues for Teaching Support/Mentoring
- Teaching and Learning Centres
- Peer Group Mentoring
- Institution-Wide or Central Mentoring Opportunities
- Common Teaching-Related Concerns
- Teaching Culture/Climate
- Parsing Tenure and Promotion Guidelines for Teaching
- Summative Assessment of Teaching
- Course Evaluations
- How to Locate Teaching ‘Experts’ or ‘Champions’
- How to Address the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Teaching
DIVISIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN: UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Mentoring processes/structures. The Divisional Environmental Scan identified formal mentor matches(15) for 9/15 divisions that participated in this study, which includes both tenure and teaching stream faculty. Four divisions reported informal mentor matches described by one divisional respondent as “mentoring on an ad-hoc basis, typically for those faculty [who are] up for tenure review.” Of the formal mentor matches, five divisions provide mentoring guidelines/documentation to mentor-mentees at the time of their match. Embedded in these guidelines are limited teaching-focused guidelines.(16)
OVERVIEW OF DIVISIONAL RESPONSES
n = 15: participated in the scan (86% response rate)
n = 9: reported formal mentor matches, for both tenure and teaching stream faculty
n = 4: reported informal mentor matches
n = 2: assigned a teaching mentor (both were also formal matches)
n = 2: offered mentor skills training
Assign a teaching mentor. Only two divisions assigned a teaching mentor, as described in an email by one divisional staff person:
The Chair is asked to assign them a mentor from within the unit. That mentor will generally address both teaching and research, although we do suggest that Chairs can consider assigning both a teaching mentor and a research mentor, depending on the culture and resources of the unit, and the needs of the new faculty member.
The second division reported that new faculty may request a teaching mentor but they must initiate this match. It is not known whether the Chair would provide a list of teaching mentors from which to select. The following example elucidated this practice more fully: “They can use anyone else they want to. One example of a tenure stream faculty who has since received tenure is that they had poor course evaluations and got a teaching mentor to enhance their teaching.” A third division described an “optional” teaching mentor in that the new faculty member would be encouraged to contact the divisional Teaching Fellow but no formal match would occur.
Provide mentor skills training. Divisions reported very limited mentor skills training. Two divisions offered this activity, but provided no details in their responses. Four divisions reported informal training. For example, one respondent indicated that if a mentor used the teaching centre, they would have strong skills in this area, and would also be able to build their mentoring abilities further while working under the direction of the head of the centre. One divisional respondent emphasized that mentor training is ‘essential and should be university-wide,’ and followed by sharing these suggested core elements of mentoring relationships and programs:
Clear expectations for each mentor and mentee are required. There should be a mechanism in place for the match; monitoring and evaluation of how these mentoring programs or guidelines are being implemented, and how well they are doing; evaluation is also required. Also include specific guidelines on frequency, voluntary/mandatory aspects of mentoring relationships.
Teaching topics addressed through mentoring. When prompted to share typical teaching requests (from the mentee perspective) divisional respondents included a wide range of teaching-related topics with the most frequently cited at the top of this list:
- course development and syllabus design (e.g., how do I design a new course?)
- University and faculty guidelines for assessment of teaching (e.g., how to achieve ‘excellence in teaching’– what are the criteria? how are they measured? etc.)
- how to prepare for classes efficiently, to ensure some time is available each week for scholarship activities, interactive learning, deliverables, assessment (e.g., (1) techniques for engaging students in classroom discussion and more generally, for promoting active learning; (2) how to design assessments that serve identified teaching objectives)
- in-class observation and provision of formative feedback
- how to present and use course evaluation data in assessing one’s teaching effectiveness in cases of tenure and promotion and ensuring these data is not the sole focus of the assessment of teaching.
One of the teaching centres ensures that many of the teaching-related questions and requests included in the above list are addressed by specific individuals who serve as mentors and have been identified to support many of these key pedagogical areas. In the case of one of the large divisions, their response to the divisional scan request was to share “Typical Issues” drawn from its Mentoring Programme document(17), including for example: What criteria are used for teaching excellence, how is teaching evaluated, and what is a teaching dossier? What are the grading guidelines for courses? How does one obtain feedback concerning teaching? What resources are available for teaching enhancement? What teaching assistantships are available? What should be done about TA training? (p. 3).
Recommendations/key observations. Finally, when prompted, eight divisional respondents offered suggestions for CTSI’s role in the area of faculty mentoring for teaching. Most frequently cited was that new faculty in their divisions are encouraged and and/or directed to CTSI programming/services to ensure they receive strong pedagogical grounding. Two respondents felt that a ‘Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)’ – type document would be a useful resource from this study, directed to each of the mentors and mentees. Finally the following verbatim responses included unique contributions to this overall topic:
- how to formulize the mentoring infrastructure
- provide a literature review; guidelines to inform our own [mentoring] policies but if possible these should be adopted university-wide (consistent)
- mentoring contracts (usually found in business) adapted to the academic sphere
- partnerships and support; any mentoring documentation; develop research and scholarship in supporting community-based teachers and faculty
- the Graduate Supervision Guidelines(18) are very helpful – both parties receive a copy – consider a similar format
A central goal of this study was to capture the mentoring approaches and practices that exist at U of T. Faculty participants (N=44) were therefore first asked to share what, if any, faculty mentoring for teaching guidelines existed in their department (or faculty, division). Early into the interview process it became apparent that mentoring for teaching was not well-known or common practice with limited to no guidelines available (or at least known) to faculty. The interview questions shifted slightly to prompt for any knowledge and experience with faculty mentoring guidelines that included formal mentor matches undertaken for new faculty hires in continuing appointments. Participants were then asked to identify the type of mentoring for teaching practices that occurred in their department and to describe these experiences from their perspectives as either mentee or mentor roles (or both). Specific probes captured teaching-related typical requests/questions from mentees, mutual goals for engaging in this relationship and suggestions and recommendations for CTSI regarding future resource documents that would address mentoring for teaching needs.
THEME 1: Defining mentoring
THEME 2: Mentoring models and approaches experienced/described: a broad continuum
THEME 3: Other avenues for teaching support/mentoring
THEME 4: Common teaching-related concerns
(15) Formal here means both mentor and mentee were introduced or identified to each other via departmental/divisional letter/email
(16) One division embeds general teaching guidelines in its Academic Handbook for instructors.
(18) These guidelines can be accessed: https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/Documents/supervision+guidelines.pdf