Finding Your People: Peer Mentoring Strategies and Tools for Doctoral Students and Faculty


Margaret H. Berg, University of Colorado Boulder

Tami Draves, University of North Carolina-Greensboro

H. Ellie Falter, University of Colorado Boulder

Megan Wick, University of Colorado Boulder


Peer mentoring has been recognized as a mechanism for socialization into the profession, both for doctoral students as they assume the roles of music teacher educator and researcher (Draves & Koops, 2011) and for early career faculty who navigate teaching, research, and service responsibilities as they work toward earning tenure (Driscoll et al., 2009). At the same time, tenured faculty at the associate and full professor ranks can benefit from establishing and maintaining peer mentor relationships that can help faculty maintain intrinsic motivation and engagement over the course of their career (Austin, 2007; LeBlanc & McCary, 1990). While interactions with more experienced mentors can also foster entrée into and sustained involvement in the music teacher educator community of practice, the resulting relationship may originate from a hierarchical rather than near-peer (Darwin, 2000; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; 2000) framework. Near-peer relationships are characterized as reciprocal with those in relationship sharing various bodies of knowledge, providing feedback and offering psychological support (Phillips, 2016).


Findings from prior research indicate doctoral students experience various incentives and barriers for completing a doctoral program (Teachout, 2008). Also, while committed to a career in higher education, doctoral students experience a shift in identity from graduate student to music teacher educator (Bond & Koops, 2014; Conway, Eros, Pellegrino, & West, 2010). While confident in their teaching, doctoral students and pre-tenure faculty may lack research efficacy and may be concerned about or struggle with maintaining work-life balance (Martin, 2016; Pellegrino, Sweet, Kastner, Russell, & Reese, 2014). At the same time, tenured faculty hold various philosophical mindsets, accomplishments and experience workplace cultures that can lead to disillusionment or satisfaction (Austin, 2007). While each career stage has unique challenges, peer mentoring can serve as an invaluable resource for professional socialization and career development for doctoral students and faculty, thus promoting increased self-efficacy and faculty productivity.


This session, in alignment with the SMTE Symposium theme “Imagining Possible Futures,” is based on current peer mentoring practices that, if applied by doctoral students, pre-tenure faculty and tenured faculty, might result in the formation of a robust local and inter-institution support network for faculty at all ranks (Sorcinelli & Yun, 2007). Furthermore, this session addresses the need identified by the Music Teacher Educators: Identification, Preparation, and Professional Development ASPA to focus on preparation of the “next generation” of music teacher educators as well as the needs of those who already serve in this role.


Session Outline

This session is the first in a two-part sequence designed to foster doctoral student and music teacher education faculty professional development toward scholarly productivity and career satisfaction. In this panel discussion, we will share:

1.     Prior research on doctoral student and faculty career development

2.     Existing and prior practices working with peer mentors during graduate school and as early career and tenured faculty

3.     Tools to use when working with peer mentors including weekly check-ins, shared writing spreadsheets, and writing groups (in-person or on-line) .


We will also provide an opportunity for peer mentor matching among participants.




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