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Doctoral mentees and academic mentors’ experiences of a collaborative teaching development project: Exploring disciplinary stewardship through action research

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 2:30pm – 3:00pm parallel session



Room 8 – 303 B09 Sem



Dr Caitlin McDowell
The University of Melbourne, New Zealand

Shinead Borkovic
La Trobe University, Australia

Dr Nastaran Doroud
La Trobe University, Australia

Tessa Weadman
La Trobe University, Australia

Associate Professor Tracy Fortune
La Trobe University, Australia

Dr Jeanette Fyffe
La Trobe University, Australia

Dr Chris Bruce
La Trobe University, Australia

Sarah Barradell
Swinburne University, Australia



While doctoral candidates have many opportunities to develop their research skills, there are often few opportunities to prepare them for other areas of academic life, including teaching. Many doctoral students seek sessional teaching work, not only to support their living requirements, but also with a view to securing an ongoing career in the academy. This project responds to calls from scholars for targeted support and mentorship for doctoral students so they can experience and learn about all areas of academic and professional practice (Mantai, 2018; Matthews, Lodge & Bosanquet, 2014).


The initiative

The Teaching Mentors (TeaM) project was a collaborative action-research project led by four experienced academics (mentors) and four doctoral candidates (mentees) who were also employed as sessional tutors. Mentees were supported in their goals to be and become teaching and research academics. This year-long project had several goals, including: to explore and reflect on teaching and research career goals; to develop teacher identities and teaching and learning philosophies; to participate in a monthly collaborative, team-based mentoring group; and to engage in and co-lead a scholarship of teaching project. This study used a community of practice approach while also drawing on the Golde and Walker’s (2006) concept of ‘disciplinary stewards’.


Method(s) of evaluative data collection and analysis

The overarching methodology guiding this project was action research, using cycles of planning, action, observation, and reflection (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000). Data were collected through face-to-face mentor meetings, facilitated workshops and an online collaborative tool. Mentoring meetings were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data were analysed using thematic analysis (Vaismoradi, Jones, Turunen & Snelgrove, 2016)


Evidence of effectiveness

Both mentors and mentees further developed their sense of academic identity and belonging through participating in the initiative. It also facilitated career progression, with several members attaining new employment opportunities or promotions. For example, two mentees completed their doctorates and gained fixed-term employment in the academy.


During the session we will:

  1. i) describe our use of a collaborative approach between academics and doctoral students to uniquely support and develop all participants in their academic careers;
  2. ii) discuss how we merged scholarly teaching development objectives with deeper exploration of the ontological dimensions of being an academic in the contemporary academy; and

iii) reflect on the challenges and unexpected benefits of working in these kinds of collegial spaces. 



Golde, C. M., & Walker, G. E. (Eds.). (2006). Envisioning the future of doctoral education: Preparing stewards of the discipline-Carnegie essays on the doctorate (Vol. 3). Jossey-Bass.
Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (2005). Participatory action research: communicative action and the public sphere. In: Denzin, N.K., and Lincoln, Y.S., (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California, USA, pp. 559-603.
Mantai, L., & Dowling, R. (2015). Supporting the PhD journey: insights from acknowledgements. International Journal for Researcher Development, 6(2), 106-121.
Matthews, K.E., Lodge, J.M. & Bosanquet, A. (2014) Early career academic perceptions, attitudes and professional development activities: questioning the teaching and research gap to further academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 19:2, 112-124, doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2012.724421
Vaismoradi, M., Jones, J., Turunen, H. & Snelgrove, S. (2016). Theme development in qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(5), 100-110. doi: 10.5430/jnep.v6n5p100


Presentation topic

Academics – Academic Development

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