SoTL Canada Special Session at STLHE 2016: Effecting Change Through SoTL Mentorship: A Collaborative Opportunity

Janice Miller-Young, Deborah Kiceniuk, Victoria Chen, Genevieve Newton

In this special session, the SoTL Canada executive proposed a SoTL Canada Mentorship Program as an upcoming initiative. In member feedback to the 2014 SoTL Canada Membership Survey, mentoring opportunities of interest included being connected to a formal mentor with greater experience (52%), participating in online peer mentoring with a partner or small group (15%), meeting with a peer mentor at the STLHE conference (11%), and being connected to a mentor in the same discipline but at another institution (11%). Following this, the STLHE special session workshop was developed in order to explore typical facilitators and challenges to engaging in SoTL, to review types and benefits of mentoring programs, and to explore what a SoTL Canada mentorship program might look like.

As described in this session, the term “mentor” has its origins in the poem The Odessey, by Homer, and was included in the 1790 Oxford dictionary. Since then, various terms have evolved, which generally describe the relationship between groups or individuals. One particularly appealing term is that mentorship is a role that comprises “engendering trust, issuing a challenge, providing encouragement, and offering a vision for the journey” (Doloz, 1991, p.31). This definition may be a good starting point for us as we embark on the development of a national SoTL Canada mentorship program.

Mentorship programs can be found at institutions of higher education around the world, and there are many diverse types, both formal and informal. However, while peer mentorship programs are indeed common, most differ in some ways from what we hope to achieve. For example, mentorship programs are usually institutional, whereas SoTL Canada proposes a national level program. As well, mentorship programs usually address diverse needs, whereas we propose focusing on SoTL specifically. Furthermore, mentorship programs usually pair junior with senior peers, whereas we anticipate that mentors and mentees in the SoTL Canada program may have variable ranks, and that relationships will be based on needs and expertise rather than seniority. So, we will, in a sense, be breaking “new ground” with this program, and there is a need for clarification of uncertainties such as determining the needs and interests of our SoTL Canada members before we can proceed.

As such, this special session sought to gain feedback from participants in three general areas. Each area is described below, with a summary of participant feedback.

Area #1: What would you like to see in a SoTL Canada Peer Mentoring Program?

  • A database of mentors that can be used to identify who can provide guidance
  • The ability to self-select a peer mentor, rather than being assigned one by an administrator
  • A clear definition of who can participate in each role and what the roles will comprise
  • Broad inclusion of participants across institutions (colleges and universities) and ranks, such as students (graduate/undergraduate), educational developers, faculty (current and retired), etc.
  • Access to online communication through the platform, such as archived conversations, to allow for non-participants to benefit
  • Mentorship for collaborative partnership opportunities, such as multi-institutional research studies
  • Within as well as interdisciplinary mentorship opportunities
  • Addressing SoTL needs such as REB applications, grant writing, funding, writing, research methods, study design, etc.
  • Mentor profiles should include clear identification of skills and qualifications

Area #2: What are your experiences (lessons learnt) with mentorship programs?

  • There is a need for mentor training
  • The mentor/mentee roles should be clearly defined
  • It is useful to have a goal or activity, as the need to accomplish something will drive the process forward
  • There should be specific areas/topics identified to facilitate identification of needs
  • Individuals should be allowed to choose their mentor, with the mentee making initial contact

Area #3: What supports do you need to be successful in SoTL?

  • Example proposals (grants/conferences/papers)
  • Collection of resources (funding/journals/access points/literature database/key words)
  • Motivators
  • Resources (time, money, students)
  • Support/collaborative networks

This is all great feedback, but we still need to hear from a majority of our SoTL Canada members. If you are interested in a SoTL Canada Mentorship Program, and have feedback to share regarding areas #1-3, please email Gen Newton ( with your ideas. Over the next year, we will use this information to inform the development of the program, and hopefully create a resource that can be used to support and promote SoTL across Canada.

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