|[ ASCILITE ]
[ 2004 Proceedings Contents ] |
The executive of ASCILITE introduced a mentoring program in 2003 to facilitate the sharing of the skills and knowledge of the ASCILITE membership, particularly in the areas that would enhance learning through technology. The program also recognised the expertise of the professional membership of ASCILITE by inviting them to act as mentors in the program. These were often long term members with some former members of the Executive. The program is unique as it recognises that mentoring is beneficial to both less experienced professionals in the field as well as experienced educational technologists who are making career changes within their institution and across institutions. The program focussed on the achievement of one identified goal within a specified period. The evaluation of the pilot program indicated that participants found the program beneficial particularly in the exchange of ideas, dialogue and communication that occurred. In addition the evaluation by the mentors-mentees and the organising committee suggested a number of recommendations to improve the program. These included: setting an achievable goal, identifying agreed outcomes and roles, developing a timeline, scheduling regular meetings, and planning to attend the annual conference. These recommendations are currently being implemented in the second year of the program.
A team from the ASCILITE executive conceptualised the program, managed the program, processed applications, selected candidates, and completed an initial evaluation. The participants were recruited from the ASCILITE membership by advertising in the newsletter and through the ASCILITE listserver. Application forms for both mentor and mentee requested potential candidates to provide sufficient information so that mentoring program team could identify partnerships that may be compatible and conducive to a successful mentor-mentee relationship. The mentoring program team judged the applications to determine who would receive the sponsorship. The aim was to culminate the program at the annual ASCILITE conference with a breakfast session to informally evaluate the program and introduce to the program to potential applicants for the following year.
Five mentees were matched with mentors who had the skills required to support them to achieve their goals for the six month period. The mentor and mentee determined what they aimed to achieve and how they would do this. They determined the frequency of meeting and methods of communication. They were mutually responsible for its success. The goals they identified included:
Mentors were chosen based on their expertise, appropriate skills match for the mentee from those who had applied to participate or were approached by a member of the sub-group where no applicant matched the desired skill base. All participants were provided with a $500 honorarium to support the process.
Each mentor-mentee partnership signed an agreement indicating the goals to be achieved, methods of communication and an agreed timeline for meetings. This was filed with the ASCILITE secretariat and the honorarium was provided after receipt of the agreement. A facilitator was identified for each pair from the executive sub-group. The role of the facilitator was as an intermediary if problems arose in the relationship.
This paper reviews the current literature related to mentoring in higher education, examines the initial CMP program through data collected from the participants, and makes recommendations for improvements to the program.
Formal mentoring programs conceived in the corporate sector initially were slow to gain ground in higher education institutions although increased agendas for accountability and quality assurance have seen universities take a more corporate view of staff development in recent years, including an increased use of mentoring for all staff (Luna & Cullen, 1995). In higher education, successful mentoring programs have been reported for undergraduate and postgraduate students (Hawkridge, 2003; Sinclair, 2003), for administrative staff (Barnett, 1995; Daresh, 1995), for new faculty (Cawyer, Simonds, & Davis, 2002; Sands, Parson, & Duane, 1991) and for faculty taking on new roles, especially using technology (Gray & McNaught, 2001).
Mentoring has been well reported for students and recent studies point to mentoring programs developed for undergraduates, particularly in teacher education areas (Barnett, 1995; Bush & Coleman, 1995) and health education (Oliver & Aggleton, 2002). In addition the usefulness of technology (particularly online communication technologies) for mentoring of junior students by more senior students in the areas of teaching (Hearne, Lockyer, Rowland, & Patterson, 2004) and nursing (Ribbons & Hornblower, 1998) highlight the benefits of mentoring and the usefulness of technology to support the process.
Of significance to this study, Peluchette & Jeanquar (2000) examined whether career professionals require different sources of mentors at different stages of their careers through a sample of 430 faculty members from two US research institutions. The researchers pointed out that "professionals must align themselves very closely with their professional colleagues and associations outside the organisation for the purposes of recognition, evaluation, and in some cases, career mobility" (p. 551), a notion supported by earlier work by Raelin (1985) and Becher (1989). Peluchette & Jeanquar (2000) found that early career professionals particularly benefited from multiple sources of mentoring, both within their organisation and within their profession, and that those without mentors may limit their career success. They concluded that the profession is an important source of mentoring for early career professionals but may have limited impact on mid-career and late career professionals, where mentoring within their organisation may prove more beneficial. However, Sands and associates (1991) cautioned earlier about the impact of a mentor drawn from within an institution where the person involved may have an impact on future promotion or tenure and suggest that mentors should be drawn from outside the immediate department.
Mentoring within and by higher education professional associations has not received as much attention in the research area, although some studies conducted in health and library associations highlight the benefits for the participants and the association. One study of particular relevance, by Ritchie and Genomi (2002) recognised that the concept of professionalism should be added to Kram's (1983) career advancement and psychosocial functions. Ritchie and Genomi's (2002) evaluative study identified the important role group mentoring has to support the "emerging professional identity" of individuals in professional associations (p. 68). This suggests an important role for professional associations which requires further research.
What opportunities has the program provided for participants? What are the benefits for ASCILITE? What are the perspectives of participants of the success of the program? How can the program be improved?
Multiple sources of information were used for data collection. Data was collected through an anonymous online survey, involving twelve 6 - point Likert style questions with choices from strongly agree to strongly disagree. There was also opportunity to indicate if a statement was not applicable or if the respondent had a neutral response. There were six open ended questions. The limited number of subjects is acknowledged with 7 of a possible 10 respondents completing the questionnaire. Each mentoring pair also provided a written report. A forum was conducted during the annual conference in December, 2003 and mentors, mentees, and facilitators of the program were invited to attend. Attendance included one mentee or mentor from three partnerships plus written reports from the two pairs unable to attend.
The small number of participants in the questionnaire means that results cannot be generalised beyond this particular program. In addition, no statistical analysis of results was conducted because of the small numbers involved.
The open ended questions provided more depth to the responses. A question regarding the success of the program elicited positive responses from all respondents, with one respondent stating:
... through the mentoring process itself, and through the network and relationships opened through the program, my knowledge of Instructional Design has increased dramatically. It has also benefited both organisations through cross transfer of knowledge and processes about Instructional Design. The mentoring partnership will continue, although the program is near completion.
Another participant also indicated flow on effects for their organisation, since their institution was "just commencing an initiative which the mentee's institution had been doing for a while". One participant indicated, "I've enjoyed it. I think that, once a few communication issues are refined, it could evolve into a very significant activity." The most significant aspect of the program was the cross institutional collaboration for four respondents, and professional engagement for two others. One enjoyed the opportunity to give something back to the profession. All indicated they would be interested in acting as mentors in future programs, though some did not feel ready for the challenge immediately.
Respondents offered some insight into possible improvements for the program including one suggestion for making the financial incentives tax free, another for increasing communication between all mentors and mentees in the program, and one who thought the program should be more structured and another who thought it should be less structured.
The reports from the partnerships provided further insight to the program. Communication for the program was conducted through a variety of means, not surprisingly with much of it involving technology as the partners were in different institutions or organisations, in different states and in two cases, different countries. Two pairs had the benefit of face to face meetings, supported by email and chat, and indicated that this assisted to develop their relationships. One pair knew each other professionally before the program and so already had an informal relationship. They communicated by phone regularly and supported this with email and one chat session. Two pairs communicated only by email or chat and they indicated some difficulties in forming a strong relationship and maintaining communication.
Communication issues were more challenging in this cross institutional context particularly where partners were located in other states or countries. Whilst pairs who had met previously or had opportunity to meet face to face appeared to be more successful, the use of technology and an intermediary may assist to develop relationships in the initiation stage. One participant commented:
The idea of virtual mentoring / mentoring at a distance was technically very achievable, but I don't think I would have found it engaging if conducted solely via Internet; the telephone conversations were most worthwhile and a welcome break from the screen.
Other research has viewed the use of technology more positively in the area of mentoring, but much of the focus has been on mentoring relationships between student/teacher involved in higher education study (Kealy & Mullen, 2003). The program may benefit from further encouragement and support for participants through the contact with other mentoring partnerships and for further contact with the facilitator, using email or a listserv.
Two other important issues are relevant to the discussion. Firstly, the timeline for the mentoring program although expected to be six months, was actually only four months by the time some partnerships had made contact as several mentors were at overseas conferences when the initial announcement was made. Consequently, the ability to fully achieve the goals identified was limited, and in some cases, the goal was renegotiated to allow for the limited timeframe. Some partnerships extended the program for another three months after the questionnaire was conducted in order to achieve their goals. Secondly, only three mentors and one mentee were able to attend the conference. For the mentors the issue was related to commitments elsewhere, but for the mentees both costs to attend and approval from supervisors were limitations. Even the mentee who attended only gained approval one week before the conference. It is important therefore to raise the profile of the program itself as well as the successful candidates within their institution, to ensure support from management for their attendance at the conference. This may require official invitations to the conference; for example, indicating the presence of the candidate is invited for an awards ceremony.
Further research is required in the area of mentoring in professional associations. In particular, this program would benefit from a longitudinal study to determine the impact of the program on the participants and to determine what benefits the association receives from sponsoring such a program.
The final words about the benefits of the 2003 program come from the participants in the further comments section of the questionnaire, indicating the potential for the Community Mentoring Program.
My mentor was fantastic - he went out of his way to pull me into his organisation's activities and communities of practice that I hadn't ever experienced before.
Enjoyed the renewed passion for our field. The enthusiasm the mentees bring is infectious The CMP is a symbol of a forward looking professional organisation. Great stuff.
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|Authors: Geraldine Lefoe, Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources, University of Wollongong, NSW Australia 2522. firstname.lastname@example.org |
Helen Carter, Network for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, University of Newcastle. email@example.com
Mike Keppell, Centre for Integrating Technology in Education, B4-P-02F. Hong Kong Institute of Education. 10 Lo Ping Road, Tai Po New Territories Hong Kong. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Fardon, The Multimedia Centre, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Western Australia, Australia. email@example.com
Craig Zimitat, Griffith Institute for Higher Education, Social Sciences Bldg, Mt Gravatt Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Lefoe, G., Carter, H., Keppell, M., Fardon, M. & Zimitat, C. (2004). ASCILITE community mentoring program: Empowering members though cross-institutional partnering. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 540-546). Perth, 5-8 December. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/lefoe.html
© 2004 Geraldine Lefoe, Helen Carter, Mike Keppell, Mike Fardon & Craig Zimitat
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