Faculty Mentoring for Teaching Research Report

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


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TABLE OF CONTENTS (link to bottom of page)


Setting the Context

Faculty mentoring programs have a lengthy history within institutions of higher education but vary in their models, approaches and topics of focus.

Several factors coalesced to serve as the impetus for this study. First, the Dean of a University of Toronto (U of T) faculty sought information from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) regarding mentoring for teaching approaches deemed to be effective within a research-intensive institution such as U of T. The CTSI Director felt this was an important opportunity to consult the literature, seek promising practices within U of T and at peer institutions, and to develop practical resources to support Deans, Chairs, faculty, administrators, and teaching and learning centre staff as they seek input on matters related to mentoring for teaching.

Second, in our ongoing work at CTSI we offer consultative support for faculty members’ ongoing efforts to enhance their teaching. We regularly engage with instructors on teaching-related topics, issues, and challenges and in turn offer evidence-based approaches to address their questions. Faculty have, for example, sought our expertise and guidance to build their pedagogical toolkit to effectively conduct formative in-class peer review observations in a collegial atmosphere, which is an informal mentoring activity. CTSI also coordinates a Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) Network that offers support and structured programming and opportunities for faculty members across the institution to connect around teaching interests. In addition, we witness informal teaching networks develop organically between faculty who meet and sustain relationships beyond our CTSI sessions. Throughout these activities and offerings we regularly observe many ways in which faculty of all career stages seek to create and regularly engage in mentoring relationships ranging from one-to-one consultations to larger network groups.

A third key factor that stimulated this study, and contributes to its significance within the U of T context, is survey results from two key reports: first, the 2012 Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey (Harvard, 2012), distributed to U of T faculty in tenure stream roles(1), and second, the 2014 ‘Speaking Up’(2) survey conducted by the University of Toronto (University of Toronto, 2014). Results from the faculty mentoring category in the COACHE survey show that 82 per cent of faculty believe mentoring is fulfilling(3); 79 per cent feel that mentoring is important in a departments, however, only 48 per cent feel mentoring is effective. A subcategory within the COACHE report found that faculty have received widely varying formal feedback on progress toward: tenure (77%) and promotion to full professor (22%). The survey identified gaps in U of T mentoring activities as it scored lower in comparison to its peer institutions, especially for mid-career faculty. Both the COACHE and ‘Speaking Up’ survey results highlighted some important findings concerning mentoring for teaching topics and issues:(4)


  • half of respondents never to occasionally engaged in conversations with departmental colleagues regarding undergraduate student learning. Faculty reported regular to frequent conversations regarding graduate student learning (63%).
  • over 50 per cent (57%) of faculty reported never to occasional conversations regarding effective teaching practices with departmental colleagues.
  • over half (52%) of respondents felt satisfied to very satisfied with their institution’s support for improving one’s teaching.


  • well over half (61%) of teaching stream respondents reported regular to frequent conversations about student learning
  • just over one-fifth (21.5%) of combined teaching and tenure streams reported extensive stress associated with their teaching responsibilities. Of note, teaching stream faculty reported the highest stress levels on this item: extensive stress (45%). Tenured faculty reported the lowest levels of stress in this category: not at all (34%).
  • teaching stream respondents were overwhelmingly satisfied (somewhat to very: 89%) with the resources U of T provides to support their teaching.

Collectively, these survey results demonstrate that while many faculty members do engage in discussions with colleagues regarding teaching there exists a need to better understand what these survey data are telling us about teaching and the development of university teachers. COACHE findings focus on comparisons between peer institutions and U of T currently has lower ratings within the mentoring category, especially for associate professors. Respondents within the teaching stream in particular reported high stress levels with respect to teaching but given the nature of the survey we are uncertain regarding what this specifically means. The next section describes the current research study components and steps taken to explore questions such as those found in the survey data.

Purpose of the Study

This descriptive and exploratory qualitative study examines faculty mentoring for teaching at U of T, with a view to better understanding the results of the COACHE and Speaking Up survey data, and to explore themes emerging from CTSI interactions with instructors at U of T.

This report is in two parts:

  • SECTION A: Reviews the academic literature to explore and examine evidence-based faculty mentoring models and approaches. Through data collection methods within U of T (interviews and a divisional environmental scan) we provide insights on current faculty mentoring for teaching initiatives and faculty experiences at U of T.
  • SECTION B: Outlines considerations for U of T faculty, staff and administrators with an interest in developing and/or enhancing mentoring for teaching activities, programs, and/or guidelines.

A series of CTSI evidence-based resources, informed by this study (the literature and data specific to the U of T context), are currently being developed for U of T faculty, staff and administrators interested in developing and/or enhancing mentoring for teaching activities and initiatives across the institution. The resources will build on faculty mentoring programs and resources from other higher education institutions and include promising/best practices within U of T that can support future mentoring activities.

Findings and resources developed as products from this study will also serve to advance some of the key priorities at the U of T, as reflected in the Provost’s response to the COACHE (2012) findings that call for a need to work with chairs and deans, in “enhancing leadership development and mentoring for all faculty,” among other areas.(6)

While this study report itself is a detailed overview of our research findings, we will also endeavour to disseminate some of the major findings in a future academic publication, given the gap in the literature regarding mentoring for teaching within higher education.

Specific Questions

This qualitative report draws on findings from an extensive Literature Review and Document Review, combined with data from a U of T Divisional Scan (n=15) and interviews (n=44) with tenured/tenure stream and teaching stream faculty. The following questions guided our report:

  • What is the evidence-base for effective faculty mentoring (for teaching) programs, approaches and models?
  • What is the current state of faculty mentoring programs at U of T? Is mentoring for teaching included in these programs? What processes, if any, are used to match mentors with mentees?
  • How do faculty participants describe their formal/informal experiences as teaching mentors and/or mentees?
  • What do faculty participants describe as current promising mentoring for teaching practices at U of T?
  • What mentoring gaps, challenges and recommendations do faculty participants share?

Definition of Key Terms (7)

For the purposes of this study and within a U of T context, we refer to participating faculty as falling within these groups:

TENURE STREAM: This group included tenured/tenure stream professors with continuing appointments.

TEACHING STREAM: This group included faculty lecturers and instructors with continuing appointments in teaching focused roles with little or no research responsibilities.


For this study we focused primarily on continuing appointment faculty. The mentoring resources developed from the evidence and experiences described in this study can inform how the University, via departments and divisions, might choose to support its appointed teaching staff.(8)

It is imperative to note that this study is not a comprehensive account of all departmental mentoring initiatives but includes many that were brought to our attention through the faculty interviews, consultations with Teaching Academy(9) members, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Network activities, CTSI consultations, among many other such avenues. We acknowledge that innovative mentoring initiatives continue to emerge, and not all are captured in this report. Due to time and resource constraints our study was limited in reaching a representative population sample. While two-thirds of participants were teaching stream faculty it is important to note that we received many of these respondents from the Call for Participants recruitment email sent out via various institutional communication channels and other recruitment strategies addressed in the Methods section of this report.

Ethical Considerations

The U of T Social Sciences, Humanities, and Education Research Ethics Board (REB) granted approval for this study (Protocol Reference # 32443). All participants have remained anonymous in the report and confidentiality has been ensured by including the participant’s discipline (Social Sciences, Humanities, Life and Physical Sciences) and academic position (Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream (TS); Associate Professor, Teaching Stream; Professor, Teaching Stream, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor) only, and, where appropriate whether the individual spoke from their mentor or mentee role.



Literature Review

Discussions and Considerations: Teaching and the Mentoring of Teaching






Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI)
Course Evaluations (CE)
Faculty of Arts & Sciences (FAS)
Life Sciences (Life Sci)
New Faculty Orientation (NFO)
Online Community of Practice (Online CoP)
Physical Sciences (Phys Sc)
Research Ethics Board (REB)
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
Social Sciences (Soc Sc)
Teaching Academy Member (TAM)
Teaching Stream (TS)
University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)
University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC)



(1) COACHE is a consortium of over 200 colleges and universities across North America (U of T and McGill University were the only two Canadian universities in the 2012 survey) committed to making the academic workplace more attractive and equitable for faculty. COACHE is based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Note that the COACHE survey does not capture the equivalent of U of T teaching stream faculty members. The U of T ’Speaking Up’ survey, addressed in this section, adapted survey items from COACHE to ensure perspectives from teaching stream faculty were captured.

(2) A joint initiative of the Offices of the Vice-President & Provost and the Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, the ‘Speaking Up’ Faculty & Staff Experience Survey includes a number of questions that are designed to give a ‘big picture’ view of the staff and faculty work experience at U of T. Specific examples of how the results have stimulated change at U of T include the mentoring program for staff that focuses on management and leadership development. For more information: http://www.hrandequity.utoronto.ca/news/2016-wrapping-speaking/

(3) It is not clear if respondents are referring to their role as a mentor or a mentee.

(4) Survey responses are rounded to the nearest percentage in this section.

(5) This survey was conducted prior to the inclusion of the new teaching stream provision amendment in the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointment (PPAA) approved on June 25th 2015, hence the previous Ranks and Titles are included here.

(6) http://www.faculty.utoronto.ca/reports/coache-2012/provost-letter/

(7) Interviews with faculty were conducted prior to the inclusion of the new teaching stream provision amendment in the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointment (PPAA), approved on June 25th 2015. For the purposes of this report we have changed the previous Ranks and Titles (e.g., Lecturer) to the new ones (e.g., Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream) to be consistent with current language.

(8) We are cognizant of the teaching needs of sessional instructors and understand it is a key area that warrants future inquiry, in line with the findings included in this document.

(9) The university-wide President’s Teaching Award recognizes sustained excellence in teaching, research in teaching, and the integration of teaching and research. Recipients of a President’s Teaching Award are designated by the University as a member of the Teaching Academy for a minimum period of five years; those wishing to continue participation in the Academy after this term may elect to do so. The Academy meets regularly as a body to discuss matters relevant to teaching in the University, offer advice to the Vice President and Provost and the Director of the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI), assist in the assessment of teaching when required and function as advocates for excellence in teaching within and without the University (http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/awards/presidentaward/about_pta.htm)