Mentoring Circles

What Are Mentoring Circles?

A mentoring circle consists of a small group of colleagues (usually 5 or 6 people) from across faculties and disciplines who agree to meet on a regular basis to engage in collaborative inquiry into issues of personal relevance to group members. Participants will take on both the role of mentor and mentee at different times depending on the situation. Through such an arrangement, members learn with, from and because of each other (Adams, 2012). The purpose of this type of mentoring relationship is to create a learning environment that encourages sharing of knowledge, experience, insight and support.

Goals of CTL's Mentoring Circles Program

The main goal of CTL's Mentoring Circles Program is to encourage ongoing, shared exchange about teaching and learning across disciplines and specializations in order for participants to gain a broader vision of teaching across the organization and to aid in their development and success as university instructors. A second goal is to enhance the collaborative atmosphere in the university setting.

Key Features of CTL's Mentoring Circles Program

Safe environment - Mentoring circles are places to nurture relationships built on support, trust, encouragement and confidentiality.
Shared power - ­All members of a mentoring circle have equal status.
Inclusive - ­Mentoring circles foster diversity and encourage acceptance and valuing of each other's expertise.
Relational - Each person in the circle is both a mentor to others and mentored by others in the group.
Accountable - Mentoring circles require commitment on the part of each member to be present, engaged and authentic during meetings.
Reflective - Mentoring circles encourage a search for greater self knowledge and personal growth through reflection.
Mutual exchange - Mentoring circles are built on the willingness of each member to be open, honest and willing to share both strengths and weaknesses.
Emergent - Frequency and location of meeting times, ground rules, and topics for discussion emerge from the members of the circle themselves.
Conversational - Dialogue is intended to reveal thoughts and beliefs rather than consensus.
Visionary - Mentoring circles are about transforming teaching, imagining new ways of doing things and facilitating change.

Role of CTL in the Mentoring Circles Program

CTL will assume the role of encouraging interested parties to take part in a mentoring circle through an online application process. A workshop providing an overview of the Mentorship Circles Program will be provided to explain the research behind the program and the logistics of engaging in one as well as tips on effective communication and giving constructive feedback. CTL will also provide a variety of resources on our website including scholarly articles and research on possible topics for discussion should the circle members wish to use them. In addition, circle members are encouraged to share their knowledge of available university resources, opportunities and networks that support teaching and learning.

Roles of Participants in a Mentoring Circle

Once a mentoring circle is established, the participants are encouraged to meet regularly and informally. The group is encouraged to establish some ground rules for ensuring equality and respect among all members of the circle. (The group may wish to select a rotating facilitator who can ensure ground rules are followed and set times and locations for meetings.) Effective communication is at the heart of a successful mentoring circle. Such collaborations are built on relationships in which participants listen carefully and noncritically, ask clarifying questions to check perceptions, offer each other thoughtful feedback, have a positive attitude, are willing to be open and share personal experiences, are committed to the program and willing to pledge the time needed to make the collaboration successful, are proactive, and are willing to act on each other's advice in order to bring about change.

Contact Information

If you would like to join a Mentoring Circle please fill in the attached application form. If you have questions about the program contact with Mentoring Circle in the subject line.

Recommended References for Further Reading

Adams, P. (2012). Developing possibilities and potentials: A mentorship journey. Retrieved from
Caldwell, J. (2008). Developing a team mentoring model. Nursing Standard, 23(7), 35-­39.
Crosby, F. (2010). Structured mentoring circles as a way to keep women in STEM. The 8th Biennial Convention, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (p.61), June 24-27, 2010, New Orleans, LA.
Darwin, A., & Palmer, E. (2009). Mentoring circles in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(2), 125­-136.
Driscoll, L., Parkes, K., Tilley­-Lubbs, G., Brill, J., & Pitts Bannister, V. (2009). Navigating the lonely sea: Peer mentoring and collaboration among aspiring women scholars. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 17(1), 5­-21.
Felten, P., Bauman, H., Kheriaty, A., & Taylor, E. (2013). Transformative conversations: A guide to mentoring communities among colleagues in higher education. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Harris Nixon, D., Hill, T., Mercier, J. & Richardson, E. (2012). Collaborative mentoring: A both/and relationship. Proceedings of the 2013 Mentoring Institute Annual Conference (pp. 664­-667). Albuquerque, NM.
Huizing, R. (2012). Mentoring together: A literature review of group mentoring. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(1), 27­-55.
Inam, H. (2010). Five steps to start a mentoring circle. Retrieved from
Lopez, G., Storms, B., Calderwood, P., & Smith, E. (2012). In, out, and between: Creating a community of practice for mentoring. Proceedings of the 2013 Mentoring Institute Annual Conference (pp. 369- ­371), Albuquerque, NM.
McCormack, C., & West, D. (2007). Facilitated group mentoring develops key career competencies for university women: A case study. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 14(4), 409-­431.
Palermo, C., Hughes, R., & McCall, L. (2011). A qualitative evaluation of an Australian public health nutrition workforce development intervention involving mentoring circles. Public Health Nutrition, 14(8), 1458-­1465.
Phillips­Jones, L. (2007). Essentials of mentoring groups, rings, and circles. Retrieved from
Shaw, P., & Cole, B. (2011). Professional conversations: A reflective framework for collaborative development.
In J. Miller & J. Groccia (Eds.) To improve the academy, 29 (pp. 116­-131), San Francisco, CA: Jossey­Bass. ​
Young, J, (2011). Cross­domain collaborative learning and the transformation of faculty identity. In J. Miller & J.
Groccia (Eds.) To improve the academy, 29 (pp.18­31), San Francisco, CA: Jossey­Bass.