Starting Peer/Mentor Relationships

What is Peer Mentoring?

‘Peer mentoring’ and ‘peer coaching’ are two terms for the same process.

Huston and Weaver write: “Peer coaching is defined as a collegial process whereby two faculty members voluntarily work together to improve or expand their approaches to teaching. Peer coaching may be reciprocal, with each partner serving as coach to the other, or it may be one-way with one partner serving as the coach and the other as the recipient of the coaching.”Huston, T., & Weaver, C. (2008). Peer Coaching: Professional Development for Experienced Faculty. Innovative Higher Education33(1), 5-20.

Who’s a Mentor state: A mentor is simply a knowledgeable individual who can provide guidance, inspiration, and consolation to his or her colleagues. Mentors should be

  • competent in the skills they will be expected to share.
  • respected by their peers.
  • able to lead both by modeling outstanding practices in their own classrooms and by guiding other teachers through classroom observations and dialogue.

Mentors don’t manage; they guide. They offer positive solutions to challenges that other teachers identify in their own classrooms, or to challenges observed in those classrooms.

How do I start a Peer or Mentor relationship?

The easiest way is to first ask someone you trust, and who has observed you teaching, to sit with you while you fill a focus area of your eJournal.
Ask that person to describe their observations of your teaching strengths in achieving the focus area requirements.
Tell them what you believe are your strengths and offer evidence. You may be surprised that others often see strengths that you overlook. 

If you continue to feel comfortable with a person’s observations, invite them to be a peer mentor using the eJournal menu item ‘Invite Peer/Mentor’.

You can, of course invite anyone, anywhere,  to provide Peer/Mentor feedback using the eJournal facility, but it is important that you have developed a mutually trusting relationship with people that you invite.

It takes practice to be a good peer commentator, but it is worth the effort as it builds a supportive community of learners, committed to supporting each other in strengthening each others’ teaching practice.

The following questions may help you structure your own observations and those of peers.

  • Describe the physical setting
    – Who was present?
    – What were the characteristics of the physical space?
    – What materials or  resources did you use?
    – How did students and you use the physical space to advantage?
  • Explore the organisational components
    – how did you organise the lesson, how did you develop the process while with your students, what were the characteristics of your transitioning into and out of the classroom or teaching situation?
  • Describe the feeling level 
    – What indicated the atmosphere of the classroom?
    – What you could observe happening with the class as a whole, or between individuals?
    – Describe individual interactions that you observed. Did they all feel positive?
    – What did you do to respond to emotional responses?
  • Explore the evidence that you achieved your purpose
    – What was your purpose? How did you make it clear to others?
    – What are the observed behaviours and outcomes that act as evidence that others benefited from your teaching purpose?
  • Next time
    – What would you do the same, and what would you do differently next time?
    – What, or who could help you better achieve your purpose?
    – What goal and actions can I put in my action plan based on my own reflection and my peer’s observations?