Good Read: Institutionalizing Faculty Mentoring within a Community of Practice Model

Smith, E. R., Calderwood, P. E., Storms, S. B., Lopez, P. G., & Colwell, R. P. (2016). Institutionalizing Faculty Mentoring within a Community of Practice Model. To Improve the Academy, 35(1), 35-71. doi:10.1002/tia2.20033


In higher education, faculty work is typically enacted—and rewarded—on an individual basis. Efforts to promote collaboration run counter to the individual and competitive reward systems that characterize higher education. Mentoring initiatives that promote faculty collaboration and support also defy the structural and cultural norms of higher education. Collaborative mentoring initiatives, however, support all faculty to be lifelong learners. We analyze a reciprocal model of mentoring—a community of practice for mentoring—that integrates collaborative mentoring into faculty’s daily work. Additionally, we examine the dilemmas, benefits, and costs of institutionalizing a community of practice model for mentoring in higher education. Our analyses indicate that communities of practice can be fruitful sites of mentoring for all faculty when members mutually engage in shared practices required by the institution. Additionally, such communities nurture relationships and emotional support that sustain engagement in practice and reduce isolation. Given these benefits, we argue that communities of practice should be publically recognized at the institutional level as viable mechanisms for faculty mentoring and learning. Institutions of higher education must explicitly support a campus culture of collaboration and lifelong learning. Findings offer guidance for faculty and center for teaching and learning (CTL) interested in starting or participating in communities of practice.

Source: Institutionalizing Faculty Mentoring within a Community of Practice Model – Smith – 2016 – To Improve the Academy – Wiley Online Library

[Full text of the article is included with POD membership]


About Dr. J. Metzker

I believe in the power of a liberal education to transform individuals and society. I am currently the Executive Director of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence. Formerly, I led a community engagement initiative and held a full professorship in chemistry at a public liberal arts university. I am a proud product of The Evergreen State College.
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One Response to Good Read: Institutionalizing Faculty Mentoring within a Community of Practice Model

  1. Does this sound familiar? This describes IC-bG to a T.

    “The defining features of CoP, however, raise several dilemmas for organizations seeking to institutionalize them. CoP arise naturally in organizational life, and it is this organic and voluntary nature that make them thrive. Mandating their existence can undermine their very nature and success. “You cannot violate the natural developmental processes and dynamics that make a community of practice function as a source of knowledge and arbiter of expertise, including members’ passion about the topic, [and] the sense of spirit and identity of the community” (Wenger et al., 2002, pp. 14). Voluntary participation, Snyder and Briggs (2003) add, is essential to a CoP’s sense of shared commitment, and to its ability to openly share or seek knowledge, and build openness, trust, and reciprocity. The dilemmas of institutionalizing CoP in HE warrant analysis of lived examples. In what follows, we analyze three CoP for mentoring with varying degrees of institutionalization.”

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