What role do teaching mentors play in supporting new university lecturers to develop their teaching practices?
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We examine the support mentors provide to new lecturers as part of a postgraduate programme designed to familiarise them with university teaching. Drawing on qualitative data collected from 13 new lecturers and nine mentors, we document the support new lecturers’ call upon to shape their practice. We identify important issues surrounding the significance of mentor choice, in terms of a mentor’s experience, position and knowledge of their role, which determine the effectiveness of professional learning. Difficult issues were observed relating to prioritisation and workload for new lecturers and their mentors, and as a consequence the wider networks of colleagues and peers that new lecturers drew upon were seen as an essential source of advice. Indeed, the extent of their use depended on assistance available from mentors. Our data indicate the need for careful framing of mentoring relationships in terms of professional development and teaching enhancement to ensure the benefits of these interactions are realised. Equally both parties need to be encouraged to use reflection to scaffold interactions to promote professional learning. Our data also identify the need for recognition for those performing mentoring roles, to ensure they can dedicate necessary time so that productive relationships are sustained for the duration over which support is required.
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