Enhancing University Teaching and Learning through Mentoring: A Systematic Review of the Literature

May. 10, 2015

Source: International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2015, p. 107-125
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this review was to systematically identify and analyze relevant scholarly sources that represent existing research on mentoring in educational development, i.e. in relation to practices, processes and effects of mentoring for university teaching


Using a careful search strategy, 17 relevant scholarly sources were selected and analyzed to document the results of mentoring at individual, departmental and institutional levels.


The findings reveal that there was a lack of clarity or definition surrounding mentoring and similar terms, coaching and tutoring and the lack of methodological rigour in many studies.
The review of literature about mentoring in educational development revealed that making a sound definition of mentoring is challenging for educational development scholars. Therefore, when developing contrastive definitions of mentoring, coaching and tutoring, the authors used studies from literature from other fields, in particular from psychology and management literature. These studies suggested that mentoring, coaching and tutoring are interrelated, but are different concepts.

Mentoring exists for one to help another to learn and it should be offered to those for whom few similar resources exist at their respective place of work. Generally, mentoring describes a process whereby an experienced person, or “mentor,” provides a less experienced colleague, a “mentee,” a “protégée” or a “mentoree,” with support, encouragement and knowledge. Elaborations of this definition include different responsibilities for the mentor, for example those of providing guidance and advocacy to a mentee or on behalf of a mentee. The mentor takes on one or more of the following roles: role model, sponsor, guide, teacher, advisor, source of information, coach or confidant.
While the original understanding of mentoring relationships implies that they involve a hierarchy, some argue that mentoring should involve peer relationships between two people who are at a similar level in their organization. The authors suggest calling this type of mentoring relationship as “peer collaboration”.

Most literature presumes that coaches are the experienced colleagues of their coachees. In coaching, the focus is either on personal development or on raising performance and supporting effective action. In relation to mentoring, coaching is usually understood as part of the role of a mentor. Other differences exist to demarcate mentoring from coaching. For example, while mentoring denotes a long-term relationship that fosters broad-based professional development, coaching generally refers to a short-term relationship that is centered around the development of specific practices in coachees.

Another term related to mentoring is tutoring. In a pedagogic context, Lane et al. (2011) define tutoring as an instructional practice that allows tutors to learn or improve their pedagogical skills while allowing the tutored to learn and advance certain key abilities. In practice, tutoring is typically carried out between peers, of which the tutor is somewhat more advanced than the tutored and thus capable of providing the tutored with supplemental instruction (Lane et al., 2011, p. 201).
Because the term tutoring has so many different meanings, its employment can lead to misunderstanding. Mentoring and coaching, on the other hand, are clearer when used to denote the relationship between two or more persons of differing levels of knowledge, skills and/or experience. Mentoring is achieved through guidance, advocacy, role modeling, sponsoring and coaching.

Deriving also from other disciplines, the authors suggest defining mentoring in educational development as a long-term cooperation between a teacher and his/her colleague who has more teaching experience and expertise. This cooperation should result in an enhancement of teacher’s pedagogic practice. Coaching in educational development can be defined as a short-term support aimed at improving some aspects of teacher’s teaching and his/her insight into teaching and learning.
Furthermore, the literature reports that mentoring can: enhance university teachers’ cognitive abilities, beliefs and attitudes; improve the effectiveness of teaching; increase teachers’ capability to research teaching and learning; enhance mentoring skills; and improve the overall teaching climate at universities.

The authors conclude that categorization of different types of outcomes of mentoring in educational development can help the practitioners engaged in introducing or re-designing educational development programs with a mentoring element.

Lane, H.B., Hudson, R.F., McCray, E.D., Tragash, J.R. and Zeig, J.L. (2011), “Tutoring opened my eyes: tutor experiences in the America reads challenge”, Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 199-218.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2016