Unpacking effective mentorship practices for early-career academics: a mixed methods study

Sargent, Julia and Rienties, Bart (2022). Unpacking effective mentorship practices for early-career academics: a mixed methods study. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 11(2) pp. 232–244.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMCE-05-2021-0060


Mentoring can be an important source of support, particularly for those who are in the early stages of their career in academia. Drawing upon data from a larger study, we investigated opportunities for mentorship, factors that hinder or support mentorship, and the value of mentorship from the perspective of early career academics (ECAs).

Using a mixed- methods approach and social identity theory, we collected data via a survey and follow-up interviews with members of staff at the Open University, of which 19 ECA experiences were contrasted with 17 academics who received mentorship but were not early career.

ECAs and non-ECAs had equal access to mentoring, but mentoring seemed to be more visible and accessible to ECAs. Factors deemed to support mentorship included mentors having empathy and confidentiality. Mentorship was valued by ECAs because it helped to provide them with support that was in addition to their line management and to help them make sense of “ being an academic”. From the data presented, mentorship supported ECAs in their academic career and identity development in higher education.

This research provides a mixed-methods approach to investigating early career mentoring within the context of a higher education institution in the United Kingdom. It considers the topic of mentoring of both junior and more senior staff who are often working at a distance to the institutional setting and it also provides a theoretical perspective in terms of social identity for academics.

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