P2P Pilot Program
The Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI) at the University of Toronto recognized a need for the creation of a teaching-focused structured peer mentoring support model for faculty. In October 2016, CTSI issued the Faculty Mentoring for Teaching Research Report in which this need was highlighted. Building on a review of the literature on higher education faculty mentoring around teaching, and using information from an environmental scan of mentoring practices within 15 divisions at U of T, and from interviews with 44 faculty members from across divisions in both the tenure stream and teaching stream, this 2016 report offered an extensive assessment of the current mentoring practices at the University of Toronto (Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, 2016). It was found that peer mentoring practices occur inconsistently across the university in varied ways from deliberate initiatives to informal ad hoc mentoring relationships, and that faculty benefit from mentoring relationships. CTSI determined that it could be more involved in supporting mentoring across the institution by working to develop a teaching-focused mentoring model that could support focused goal-setting for teaching improvement, as well as provide some skills development and education in mentoring practices and leadership opportunities for participating faculty. The model, accompanied by relevant resources, could be offered centrally and elements possibly adapted in local contexts by departments. Drawing on the Research Report recommendations, the CTSI team designed P2P and piloted the program from December 2016 to May 2017.
The goal of the pilot program was for faculty to have a peer mentorship experience that would extend beyond the typical formally-matched dyadic mentoring experience, where a junior faculty member receives general advice from a senior faculty member. Through P2P, faculty members would learn to practice focused reflection and discussion on their teaching practices, would experience the chance to develop new skills related to the peer observation of teaching and mentor-coach conversations, the opportunity to craft specific goals for course and teaching improvement based on course evaluation data and exposure to new approaches and teaching strategies. The model utilized a reciprocal peer mentorship partnership and a supportive cohort. The research component to the program ran concurrently and reflective exercises and instruments were gathered throughout. Those were followed by focus groups and a final survey with the broad goal of gathering insight on the effectiveness of P2P, how mentorship can support teaching at U of T and beyond, and to inform future peer mentor programming.
A key element to the design of P2P was to offer formal peer mentoring in a structured format. The cohort of paired peer mentors attended three CTSI two-hour full group workshops, had structured activities and resources, and could opt in to participate in a final survey and focus group.
Program Element: Recruitment
Date: Online information posted and link distributed via Provost’s e-Digest September 23, 2016; multiple CTSI Newsletter announcements distributed through October 2016; two webinars delivered November 8 & 10, 2016
Program Element: Workshop One
Date: December 13, 2016
Program Element: Regular Mentor-Mentee meetings arranged by the pair
Date: Determined in the first workshop on December 13, 2016
Program Element: Workshop Two
Date: January 27, 2017
Program Element: Workshop Three
Date: May 11, 2017
Program Element: Focus Group
Date: May 11, 2017 (formed part of third workshop)
Program Element: Post-Pilot Survey
Date: June 15 – June 30, 2017
For the purposes of this report only the Focus Group and Final Survey data were analyzed.
Approach – the mentor-coach model
The concept of mentoring for teaching continues to evolve and it is understood that both mentor and mentee learn and gain from the experience. However, “Mentoring within the higher education context has historically focused on a one-to-one relationship, often hierarchical in approach” (CTSI, 2016, p. 23). To counter this historical model, a mentor-coach model was adopted for this program. A coaching approach acknowledges that mentees come to the conversation with a personal wealth of inner wisdom and that through the support of a coach asking powerful questions to encourage reflection the mentee will discover their own voice and inner resources. This differs from an advising or consulting model in which one person holds the authority of process and knowledge and imparts it to their mentee. “More recent shifts in faculty mentor approaches have described a more reciprocal dyad that enhances learning for both individuals involved (mentor, mentee/protégé)” (CTSI, 2016, p.24). Participants in this pilot program were oriented to mentor-coach communication techniques with the goal of supporting one another’s learning rather than simply issuing or receiving advice. They were encouraged to see their partnership as one of equal give and take rather than authority and apprentice. The reciprocity of this model encouraged all, regardless of career stage, to continue to enhance their teaching.
Program participants and study participant recruitment
The P2P program participants were all tenure stream and teaching stream continuing appointment faculty members from a range of academic disciplines and from across the three campuses at U of T. Program participants were recruited through CTSI communication channels (newsletter, email, website, webinars). Thirty-two faculty members were selected among 36 applicants based on available matches. All P2P Program participants were eligible to participate in the research study. Consent was granted by 23 P2P program participants.
Matches were made by pairing one post-tenure or post-continuing status applicant with one pre-tenure or pre-continuing status applicant. In most cases both members of the pairs were in the same stream, either tenure or teaching stream. An effort was made to place people with a partner in a cognate disciplinary area and on the same campus.
Workshop #1 In this workshop, participants were introduced to the six guiding principles of mentor-coaching, and were provided with the When Mentoring Meets Coaching book and a laminate that summarized key approaches for supporting a mentoring conversation. Participants also completed an activity that asked them to practice “deep listening” with their mentoring partners. Strategies for maintaining focus through mentoring conversations and throughout the pilot were discussed. At the end of the workshop, participants reviewed their course evaluation data and completed a brief reflection on a priority area emerging from the student feedback that they would like to work on with their mentoring partner through the coming term. Individual coffee cards were also distributed to encourage/facilitate mentoring meetings.
Workshop #2 The second workshop focused on asking effective questions and providing/receiving helpful feedback. Participants were trained on a 3-step process for conducting an observation of a peer’s teaching and strategies for providing effective and appropriate teaching feedback. Participants received CTSI’s newly released Peer Observation of Teaching guide to support the peer observation process. The workshop then focused on mid-course student feedback, taking participants through strategies for crafting meaningful questions that connect to their teaching goals, and developing actions and implementing changes based on the feedback received. Training on a mid-course feedback tool, Bluepulse, was also offered and an instruction booklet was provided, as was CTSI’s revised guide, Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations.
Workshop #3 The focus of the final workshop was “What have we learned”? Prior to the workshop, participants completed an email questionnaire that asked them to describe their experiences with peer observation and mid-course feedback. This information was used to inform a paired discussion in this session. The workshop began with a calibration exercise that asked each pair to review in tandem their individual Participant Logs, to ensure meetings were accurately captured and key points recorded. The Logs were collected at the end of the workshop. Still in their partnerships, participants then reflected on their experiences observing one another teaching and collecting mid-course feedback, sharing one key highlight of both the observation and mid-course feedback processes as reported on their pre-workshop questionnaires. In the last hour of the workshop, participants were assigned to one of four focus groups facilitated by CTSI staff not associated with the pilot program. Following the focus group discussions, participants reconvened for a final reflection and celebration.
The research study component was designed and conducted according to the University of Toronto Research Ethics Board protocols (protocol reference # 33977). Participants were invited to give their consent to participate in the research study and were free to withdraw at any time. They were also free to participate in some elements rather than all elements.
As described in the chart above, some of the program activities provided data for the study, while others served as programmatic and reflective purposes. The focus groups and post-pilot survey, for example, were collected specifically for the purpose of the study alone.
- Reflection Exercise – a reflection worksheet distributed at the end of the first workshop asked participants to record three priority areas of focus for improving their course/teaching in the coming term, and describe one “actionable” area they could work on with their partner and the rationale for selecting that one area
- Participant Log – each mentoring partner was asked to use the log to track the date, format, key points of discussion and follow-up items of each meeting
- Peer Observation – templates were provided in the Peer Observation of Teaching Guide that could be used to guide formative feedback for teaching observations; participants were free to choose a form that worked for them
- Questionnaire – following Workshop #2 participants were emailed a questionnaire focussed on their peer observation
- Focus Groups – four facilitated groups of up to 8 participants each – either all mentor or all mentee; one hour in length
- Survey – online 20-question post-pilot survey
Method of Analysis
Focus groups. Four focus groups were conducted simultaneously by CTSI staff not involved in the delivery of the P2P program. Each group was comprised of either mentors or mentees (pre- or post-tenure or pre- or post-continuing status faculty). The discussion was guided by a protocol of questions and lasted approximately one hour. Discussion centered around participant experience of the program and partnerships, as well as feedback on program elements. The discussions were recorded, transcribed, anonymized, and coded. Codes were clustered according to emergent themes.
Survey. An online 20-question survey was sent to consenting participants after the conclusion of the program. Quantitative results were analyzed descriptively and qualitative questions were coded and analyzed.