Mentoring dyad to learning community: a narrative case study of the evolution of a workplace peer learning support system

Balatti, Josephine Margaret (2001) Mentoring dyad to learning community: a narrative case study of the evolution of a workplace peer learning support system. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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In organisations, the mentoring program has become a common intervention used to promote workplace learning. Formal mentoring is a systematic attempt to reproduce, manage, and improve on those informal relationships in everyday life where one person fosters the learning of another in a supportive yet challenging way. The application of mentoring programs in diverse contexts and for diverse purposes has produced multiple interpretations of mentoring practice.

This ethnographic, narrative case study documents and analyses the evolution of an eighteen-month long mentoring program involving approximately fifty staff members in an industrial worksite. The program belongs to the category of workplace mentoring programs designed to provide peer support for learners undertaking professional development courses. In its initial form this program failed to meet the needs of its participants. The thesis reveals how the tension produced by different and sometimes conflicting notions of what it means to mentor led participants to explore new ways of helping one another learn.

The aim of the study is to provide explanations for the difficulties experienced in the program and for the ways in which the program evolved. In so doing, it considers the capacity of the conventional mentor-mentee dyad arrangement to help professionals learn. Secondly, it identifies alternative models of peer learning support systems. Lastly, it shows that the concept of social capital is useful in helping explain the dynamics of peer learning support systems and in identifying the contribution that such systems make to the organisations in which they are located.

The primary source of data used for the study is transcriptions of mentor meetings. Transcripts of a series of interviews conducted with all the participants during the program are used to check events, issues, and themes that were evident or emerging at the mentor meetings. Written data are also used and include summaries, agendas and minutes of meetings, and journal entries written by the participants and by the researcher. In the thesis two modes of explanation are used to explain how and why the program evolved. The first is narrative and in the thesis the evolution of the mentoring program is reconstructed as a stage play. The second involves reinterpretations of the narrative using the literature on formal mentoring and adult learning theories that view learning as a social practice.

This thesis raises concerns about the limitations of the formal mentoring relationship as the cornerstone of peer learning support structures in the workplace. The mentor-mentee dyad with its associated differentials of expertise and position was found to be unacceptable to this group of participants. While the formal mentor-mentee relationship was, in most cases, rejected, a mentoring style to interactions was welcomed and developed. In this case a mentoring style came to mean one characterised by effective listening and facilitative questioning in an environment where there was sufficient trust for the learner to risk voicing assumptions and making errors.

Item ID: 34078
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: mentees; mentoring programs; mentoring; mentors; mentorship; professional development; workplace learning
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2015 02:16
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130108 Technical, Further and Workplace Education @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939908 Workforce Transition and Employment @ 100%
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