Mentoring of doctoral scholars vary between disciplines and domains of practice. Mentorship is generally seen as both a relationship and process between a minimum of two individuals seeking to share and build knowledge, expertise, and support (Williams & Kim, 2011). Mentoring occurs within informal and formal settings in terminal degree programs. Often (but not always) doctoral scholars are mentored by a faculty advisor or supervisor; however, even more are seeking mentorship from professionals, practitioners, and peers within their industry or workplace. In thinking back to your own graduate school or doctoral learning experience, who did you seek out or stubble upon for as a mentor? Where did you find professional support for your research and career plans? Who was part of your mentoring community for the work you do?
Over the past few years, I have been working with scholars and practitioners to understand how formal and informal mentoring experiences develop occupational pathways for academic writers, researchers, and higher education professionals. Traditionally, mentoring is viewed as a face-to-face, long-term relationship with interactions between an experienced colleague and a novice professional or learner to support professional, academic, or personal development of the protégé (Donaldson, Ensher, & Grant-Vallone, 2000). With emergent technologies and digital access to colleagues, this no longer needs to be the only model or experience for establishing mentoring relationships. Graduate students and early career scholars/practitioners are beginning to form peer networks to learn and thrive as they set out on their own professional paths. We can now find mentoring opportunities within our networks, communities, and areas of interest in online settings.
With the opportunity to connect to scholars and practitioners beyond geographic boundaries, time zones, and physical locations, it is possible to establish a mentoring relationship with one or many professionals/academics from afar. Also, the typical dyad of the mentoring experience is shifting as structures are evolving to support specific career goals and personal life changes. There is an increase in peer-to-peer, group, and networked mentoring opportunities. In a recent study, we wanted to know more about these digital mentoring experiences of doctoral scholars so we asked the following research questions:
- What type of mentoring opportunities are you involved with formally or informally to reach your personal and professional goals?
- What expectations and motivations did you bring to this mentoring relationship?
- What sort of resources, support, and kinship occurs within peer mentoring experiences in digital environments?
In exploring mentoring opportunities in-person and within digital environments, we learned most early career scholars sought out a mentor to help them with the follow areas of professional development and growth:
- Navigating the norms, expectations, and experiences working in academia
- Gaining career advice and guidance for planning their professional path
- Improving or developing a particular applied skill related to scholarship (e.g. academic writing, research methods, instruction, etc.)
- Learning from others on team-based projects, labs, or group assignments that had a shared vision, goal(s), and outcome(s)
- Offering and receiving feedback, personal support, and professional advice from and among their peers
- Identifying ways to communicate, virtually team, and work collaboratively from a distance
There are so many possibilities for early career scholarship mentoring, and part of this is just the beginning. I have no doubt that you might even have your own reflections or maybe research to share OR you are thinking about ways to support your graduate students. If you want to find out more about this research, I will be posting these findings and implications from this study here over the next couple of months: https://techknowtools.com/mentoring/
Williams, S. L., & Kim, J. (2011). E-mentoring in online course projects: Description of an e-mentoring scheme. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, 9(2).
Thanks to Janet Salmons for asking me to share my reflections on these findings at #SAGEMethodSpace (https://www.methodspace.com/) you can find a version of this blog post cross-posted HERE.