New study on mentor support from mentees’ perspective

Li, S., Malin, J. R., & Hackman, D. G. (2018). Mentoring supports and mentoring across difference: insights from mentees. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 1-22.doi:10.1080/13611267.2018.1561020

Summarized by Rachel Thompson

Notes of Interest: The study highlighted desirable mentor traits and practices, which are consistent with process-based relational mentoring. These traits include approachability, accessibility, trustworthiness, demonstrating humility and genuine care, and being willing to tailor the experience to mentees’ specific developmental needs. Furthermore, there needs to be instrumental support, which focused on skills necessary for success in the professional field. This includes teaching skills development; enrichment of research and writing skills; and understanding how to negotiate institutional rules and practices.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentoring relationships in higher education are recognized as a critical factor in preparing and socializing doctoral students and junior faculty for academic roles. We examined the practices of 12 educational leadership professors who were recipients of the Jay D. Scribner Mentoring Award, from the perspectives of 103 mentees who submitted letters in support of their nominations. The process-based relational mentoring framework was adopted for thematic analysis and two core interpretative dimensions formed: effective mentoring practices that were universally acknowledged as effective and considerations for mentoring across difference. Mentees reported effective mentor traits and practices, including being approachable and accessible, demonstrating humility and genuine care for others, and tailoring the experience to mentees’ individualized needs. Findings also included insights related to mentoring across difference, in which mentors and mentees differed by gender and race/ethnicity.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Veteran educational leadership faculty members should match historically underrepresented EDL doctoral students and junior faculty with supportive mentors who are committed to mentoring across difference.

Furthermore, cross-gender and cross-race mentoring was celebrated as a strength as they encouraged mentees’ advancement and entry into academe. This finding has important implications for our field. As Reddick and Young (Reddick, R. J., & Young, M. D. (2012) noted, mentors help mentees successfully navigate through institutional contexts and cultures that often privilege others and exclude females and persons of color. As mentors, faculty members must be compassionate, supportive and aware of issues related to gender and race/ethnicity that mentees may experience as they prepare for and enter the professoriate.

Moreover, educational leadership faculty members should examine institutional policies and practices to identify needed changes in institutional norms and departmental cultures that may restrict mentoring access.

Lastly, encourage doctoral students and junior faculty to participate in both formal programs and informal mentoring.  It is important for tenured faculty members to be conscious of challenges experienced by underrepresented doctoral students and novice faculty, including departmental faculty members who may not be fully supportive, actively surfacing issues with their colleagues and working to promote more inclusive, supportive institutional cultures. In addition, educational leadership faculty members should examine institutional policies and practices that may limit individuals’ access to quality mentoring and work with academic leaders to promote reforms.

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