Mentoring is a positive, supportive facilitation of learning and development between a person with more experience, knowledge, or expertise in a certain field, and a person who is less knowledgeable or is new to that field. In the tertiary setting, mentoring programs take on many forms and structures, with a range of objectives such as support for transition, academic supplemented instruction, and social support. All mentoring programs, regardless of structure, are fundamentally a transactional process of support underpinned by a mutually respectful relationship. The foundations of mentoring are drawn from theoretical frameworks grounded in social constructivism, social learning, applied learning, and developmental theory. These frameworks inform aspects of collaborative learning and outline the multiple benefits for participants including the building of interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills, increasing academic success and motivation. Successful mentoring programs are conceptualized and planned to ensure the program meets its objectives, has sound processes, clear expectations and roles for all participants, and an effective evaluation system for continual refinement and improvement. When the objective of the mentoring is to increase academic knowledge and skill, the greatest success occurs when the mentor has the expertise, experience, and the ability to scaffold the personal construction of meaning for the mentee.
In initial teacher education (ITE) contexts mentoring programs derive successful outcomes for the mentee, mentor, academic teaching staff, organization, and ultimately the profession. The less able students require support and scaffolding to promote and enhance deep learning and the mentor experiences altruism, while refining and practicing pedagogical skills. Mentees and mentors gain self-efficacy, confidence in pedagogical skills, and inter- intrapersonal skills. Staff are able to support diverse open learning tasks to accommodate a personalized learning approach for large cohorts with trained mentors working in the classroom providing point-of-need feedback to maximize learning gains. The university gains through low-cost innovations that increase levels of academic success and positively influence retention and student satisfaction. Society benefits from the resultant high-quality graduates, who are “classroom ready” and prepared to meet the challenges of complex learning environments. Mentoring plays an integral role in the development of teacher professional identity through modelling and intergenerational relationships.
Changing accreditation requirements and government-led inquiries into initial teacher education courses have prompted a review of current practices in the tertiary sector. To better meet the needs of the workforce, universities have a greater responsibility to demonstrate the classroom readiness of graduands. Successful teacher education programs utilize mentoring to support and enculturate the next generation of practitioners and ensure they are work ready. Structured mentoring programs transform the student experience, and create cohesive program designs to guide and support preservice teachers who are engaged in the process of learning and reinforcing their positions as developing teachers. Students in near-peer mentoring programs develop a range of mentoring skills and experiences that complement their academic development as they enter the teaching profession.