3.3 Mentor–mentee relationship
Key to a successful mentoring relationship is strong buy-in from those involved and a sense of ownership of the process from the mentee. In addition to the mentee and mentor, this buy-in is needed from their respective line managers to recognise the benefits that mentoring can bring to the mentor and mentee, and from the SoTL centre if the centre has helped to set up the relationship.
To ensure the mentoring relationship is mentee-driven, it should be up to the mentee to determine what is needed from the relationship and to ensure their mentor is aware of these needs. Mentees should therefore be responsible for driving the relationship forward and should approach mentoring meetings with an agenda of key topics that they wish to discuss. Furthermore, when requesting feedback on items such as proposals, research design or reports, mentees should agree with their mentor in advance the timescale on which feedback is needed to allow the mentor to plan their time effectively and not feel overburdened by mentee requests.
For the relationship to be confidential and for the mentor to act as a confidant, it is important that role of mentor should be separate from any role that involves evaluation or assessment (BBSRC, 2016).
Mentoring is an important professional development activity in SoTL practice that can have a positive influence on those involved. Mentoring can be rewarding for a mentor, too, as expressed by these two mentors who support eSTEeM projects:
1 Being a mentor has given me a rare opportunity to meet colleagues from different schools and understand the contexts of their curricula and practices. It is a great privilege to be able to support them and serve as a sounding board. Mentoring is easily one of the most rewarding tasks in my role.
2 My experience of being an eSTEeM mentor has been a very positive experience. It is really stimulating to think about colleagues’ projects and ideas and to find ways to assist and encourage them.
Although we have examined a single mentor–mentee relationship, mentoring may involve more than one mentor; for example, a second mentor being a guide for specialist skills, say, for statistics in a SoTL inquiry. If a SoTL inquiry is being conducted by a group of SoTL scholars, there will be a mentor or a group of mentors to support the team of SoTL scholars.
A mentee said at the end of her eSTEeM-funded SoTL project:
3 The mentor team pulled together to navigate me around any OU rules and protocols. The meetings I had with [mentor1] and [mentor2] were really supportive, very positive and highly useful to the pragmatics of getting the trials in front of a student audience.