Mentoring Partnership: The Three Cs of our Mentoring Partnership

by Fong Yoke Sim and Doreen Tan



Our formal Mentor-on-Demand (MoD) partnership, starting from January 2020, was to have lasted only six months. But it ended officially in August after we had submitted the first draft of our joint article. Moreover, we (Yoke Sim, the MoD, hereafter “YS”, and Doreen, the Mentee, henceforth “DT”) met informally in December to discuss the writing of this reflection intended for SoTL Matters. What kept us going in this formal to informal mentoring process? Indeed, we have found our informal learning alliance to be more important for satisfaction while our formal mentoring was more important for productivity (Shollen, Bland, Center, Finstad, & Taylor, 2014). Through the reflection, we endeavor to share succinctly how we experienced the MoD programme curated by CELC’s Staff Development Committee (SDC) and hope that it will be useful for colleagues interested in the practice of mentoring.



DT, interested to investigate strategies to raise the motivation and engagement of her international music students in the EAP classroom, approached the SDC. She was matched with YS who had some experience with research on motivation. Over two pre-programme meetings, we hammered out a contract that clearly stated the purpose and focus of the MoD around DT’s goals, together with the plan and timeline to achieve those goals (Eastcott, 2016). This had seemed tedious but it was found to be immensely helpful to keep us on track and accountable.



We have mentioned our common interest in motivation in learning which allowed YS and DT to share resources and collaborate in research. For example, when DT saw that her role as a teacher to her students may constitute an unequal power dimension in her role as principal investigator of her project, she invited YS to step in for data collection and joint analysis. Mentoring is a two-way traffic and mutually beneficial for professional development (Fletcher & Mullen, 2012; Timperley, 2007). Our working styles also complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. DT found YS’s expectations of an initial weekly log for readings and reflections on classroom activities helpful. They fostered a disciplined approach to launching her project. YS’s comments on the reflections and suggestions for additional reading also guided DT to delve into aspects hitherto unexplored. Lastly, over the months of working together, both mentor and mentee developed an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses in various dimensions; this understanding helped us to band together to optimize our partnership. We sought to be critical friends to sharpen each other’s focus on pedagogy and research, and the project at hand (Felten et al., 2013).



In the discussion during our last meeting this December, we realised that open and pro-active communication on both sides was at the heart of our mentoring. This learning alliance was managed alongside our teaching and other commitments; it would have been difficult to sustain if we had not strived to maintain our communication. We alluded to expectations in Complementarity; these were communicated early and clearly. The transparency extends to every aspect, including deadlines, personal circumstances, choice of a journal for our joint paper, etc. Promptness and accountability were also valued so that we made it a point to respond to each other’s email messages asap. If that was not possible, a quick text message was sent to explain. To keep each other updated as much as possible on our progress in the research and later writing of the paper, we employed whatever mode that was expedient. When in-person meetings were not possible any more during the circuit breaker and WFH periods, discussions were conducted and files sent via MS Teams and WhatsApp, besides email. It was through this open, prompt and up-to-date communication that we managed to finish and submit the first draft of our paper in August and to revise it in September. After completing the teaching for this semester, we discussed the possibility of writing a reflection for SoTL Matters. Clearly, communication has been front and centre in our mentoring experience; it has made the learning journey enjoyable and fruitful for us. Learning alliances should provide a safe space for communication, whether in the form of debate, brainstorm, encouragement or challenge (Eastcott, 2016). The infographic below is an attempt to represent our mentoring process and experience in visual form.

Fig 1: Context, Complementarity and Communication in Mentoring



There must be as many narratives on mentoring as they are mentor-mentee pairings. We are recounting ours here so as to reflect on our experience which we found to be a positive and enriching one. The purpose for the MoD programme has been fulfilled, which was built around DT’s goals to investigate strategies to raise the motivation of her students in their EAP module. For her students, these strategies have guided them to become more motivated than before the interventions. As mentor and co-investigator, YS has observed DT’s classes, analysed the students’ work and witnessed their engagement. The process has led to a joint paper project and, hopefully, a blogpost. We have grown professionally as a result – as teachers, researchers and colleagues – through this mentoring journey. As expressed by Burley and Pomphrey (2011), mentoring affords “a space where dialogue and professional learning can be achieved through critical collaborative inquiry…where teachers can develop a shared focus and purpose for their professional learning” (p. 3).



Burley, S., & Pomphrey, C. (2011). Mentoring and coaching in schools: Professional learning through collaborative inquiry. London: Routledge.

Eastcott, D. (2016). Coaching and mentoring in academic development. In D. Braume & C. Popovic (eds.), Advancing practice in academic development. London: Routledge.

Felten, P., Bauman, H. L., Kheriaty, A., Taylor, E., Palmer, P. J., & Remen, R. N. (2013). Transformative conversations: A guide to mentoring communities among colleagues in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fletcher, S., & Mullen, C. A. (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Mentoring and Coaching in Education. DOI:

Shollen, S. L., Bland, C. J., Center, B. A., Finstad, D. A., & Taylor, A. L. (2014). Relating mentor type and mentoring behaviors to academic medicine faculty satisfaction and productivity at one medical school. Academic Medicine, 89(9), 1267–1275.

Timperley, H. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development. Education Perspectives, series 18, International Academy of Education.

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