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Peer mentor support and action learning


Published: 19 December 2022

Version: December 2022

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Peer mentor support is a space for collaborative learning and inquiry, where mentors can come together to explore, discuss, and reflect on their practice. The peer mentor support group serves three functions: developmental, resourcing and qualitative. The developmental function supports the building of knowledge, skills and understanding in the context of mentoring theory and practice. The resourcing function provides a supportive space, whereby mentors can share their mentoring experiences and develop insight through reflection and dialogue. The qualitative function provides the space to support the quality and robustness of mentoring practice through dynamic inquiry. The wider purpose of peer mentoring support is to build a Community of Practice (COP), creating a network of mentors who are keen to share practice, learn from each other through ongoing interaction and provide peer support.

‘Action Learning’ is often adopted as a framework to facilitate a peer mentor support group. It is a learning and development intervention applied in management, leadership and education and is most frequently used in the context of academic study, training and development and often by those engaged in mentoring and coaching (Pedlar, Burgoyne and Brook, 2005). Action Learning is a form of group collaborative enquiry, facilitating learning and reflection through dialogue, listening, questioning and challenge.

Action Learning is applied in the context of mentoring to support the ongoing development of mentor’s practice, learning and development. Through ‘Action Learning Sets’ mentors are able to engage in questioning insight, focusing on development and understanding; the learning is holistic, integrating learning from mentoring practice and the dynamic enquiry of peers. Professional bodies, such as European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) Global require mentors to engage in the ongoing evaluation of their mentoring practice and self-development. As mentors grow and develop their experience, the commitment is heightened.

At Practitioner level mentors are required to:

  • demonstrate commitment to personal development through deliberate action and reflection
  • participate in regular supervision to develop mentoring practice
  • evaluate the effectiveness of supervision.

At Senor Practitioner level mentors are required to:

  • continuously review, reflect on, and update personal beliefs, attitudes, and skills to improve mentoring practice
  • proactively identify gaps in skills, knowledge and attitudes and use a structured process to meet learning needs
  • select relevant themes, ideas, and models to explore and develop mentoring practice
  • translate new learning into practice
  • invite feedback from peers.

There are several different varieties and approaches to peer mentoring. At the heart of mentor peer support and Action Learning is dynamic enquiry and reflection. Often, understanding arises from participants engaging in questioning to help each other explore their work-related practice and the particular situation they face.

Key features include:

  • sets of about 4-6 mentors
  • action of real dilemmas or challenges in the mentoring context
  • learning from reflection or action taken
  • task/challenges/dilemmas are individual rather than collective
  • questioning is the main way to help mentors address their task, challenge, or dilemma
  • typically, a facilitator guides the process.

Question for reflection

  • Reflecting on the capability indicators above, how can Action Learning support mentors to engage in ongoing evaluation of mentoring practice and self-development?
  • Reflecting on the purpose of Action Learning and key features, how might Action Learning support you in your mentoring practice?