Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Peer Mentoring Communities of Practice for Early and Mid-Career Faculty: Broad Benefits from a Research-Oriented Female Peer Mentoring Group

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Peer Mentoring Communities of Practice for Early and Mid-Career Faculty: Broad Benefits from a Research-Oriented Female Peer Mentoring Group

Article excerpt

In the twenty-first century, mentoring has been seen as an increasingly important tool in academic professionalization. The challenges of mentoring female faculty (early and mid-career) have drawn particular attention (Driscoll et al 2009; Trowers 2011). The preponderance of studies in this arena have focused on early career mentoring (Lund 2010; Driscoll et al 2009; Friend and Gonzalez 2009; June 2008). One of the challenges in crafting early career mentoring programs that include women and minorities has been the limitations of the traditional, hierarchical dyadic model of "mentor and protégé" (Darwin 2000; Hansman, 2003; McCormack & West, 2006). Mid-career female faculty have lately been identified as a group that desires mentoring (Towers 2011). This study explores one community of practice strategy that engages challenges of mentoring effectively in an academic setting for early and mid-career female faculty at one teaching-oriented university in the American South.

Academic Mentoring of Early and Mid-Career Faculty

Taking its early cues from student mentoring, faculty mentoring literature has been defined by four dimensions: involvement (engaging in supportive networks to establish trust in the institution), regimen (establishing an effective routine), self-management (being able to regulate one's work), and social skills/ networking (commitment to strong social ties and collegial outreach) (Boice 1992). Drawing onBoice's model, mentoring has also been characterized as a combination of "career advice, coaching, feedback, modeling, and advocacy" that can occur on a continuum of models from relationships that occur spontaneously and informally, to highly formalized relationships (Foote & Solem 2009: 48). While Boice describes characteristics that the mentee should develop, Foote and Solem focus on the strategies that mentors should consider in mentoring relationships.

Having established the parameters of mentoring, more recent scholarship on early career mentoring highlights a rich set of challenges - from the type of relationship established, and the challenges of gender dynamics, to the institutional limitations established when hiring faculty who are the single representative of their discipline (Lund 2010; Driscoll et al 2009). Successful mentoring relationships may be at a premium. Indeed, early career faculty often report poor experiences that challenge their confidence and leaves them feeling "inclined to quit academe" (Foote & Solem 2009:48). The more formalized, often hierarchical mentoring most likely occurs early in the career of a faculty member. It can often result in self-devaluation by the faculty member of their purpose and abilities. This can be particularly important for female early career faculty. The constraints inherent in traditional mentoring relationships that rely on this particular relationship dynamic of mentor and mentee has often resulted in poor mentoring results for women, as efforts to pair new and mature faculty are often flawed (Mullan 2005). Should the junior member of this dyad desire to develop an academic identity that does not conform to her mentor's expectations, or those of the broader academic culture, the mentoring relationship in this model may fail to support a junior faculty member in developing their professional identity and scholarly agenda (Driscoll et al 2009). The challenges of mentoring, especially when mentoring occurs within a disciplinary program, can be exacerbated when those faculty members are the sole representatives of their discipline (Rees 2012; Barrett et al 2009). More generally, there is often little training in mentoring, and mentees rarely receive the advice they need in early career (Foote and Solem 2009). Creating a supportive academic mentoring community becomes essential, and this seems to be particularly true for female early career faculty.

While early career faculty mentoring has been the subject of a great deal of research over the last two decades, less attention has been paid to mid-career faculty. …

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