The Australian Evaluation Society’s (AES’s) Group Mentoring Program is part of the AES suite of offerings to improve evaluation methodology, outcomes, and usage. The program was developed in response to a high level of demand for evaluation mentorship identified in the 2019–22 strategic planning membership survey.
The Group Mentoring Program was piloted online, at no cost, for selected emerging and mid-term evaluators between January and June 2021, bringing together Senior Evaluators (AES Fellows) and mentees in four groups of up to six mentees for monthly mentoring sessions.
The pilot was evaluated by the AES Mentoring Pilot Program Working Group with support from capstone students at the University of Melbourne Centre for Program Evaluation. The evaluation of the pilot drew on both quantitative and qualitative data to answer the following key evaluation questions:
Mentees across all groups reported that they highly valued the accessibility of an online format and the opportunity to learn from peers as well as mentors. Overall, evaluation participants reported that the program was beneficial and should be offered again. The key findings of the evaluation are summarised below and provided in detail in Appendix 1 of the download document. The recommendations of the AES Group Mentoring Pilot Program have been incorporated into the design of the next iteration of this program and this guideline.
The AES Group Mentoring Program is an online mentoring program, in which seasoned evaluators guide a small group of emerging and mid-term evaluators through their professional journey. Participants benefit from the expertise and leadership of the mentors and from the mentee peer support, where mentees with diverse experiences can learn from other mentees in pursuit of a common mentoring goals and develop their support network in the evaluation field.
The AES Group Mentoring Program operates in three phases:
Mentoring groups will be led by a mentor and an associate mentor (where possible), who work as a team to support the mentees in their mentoring goals. Mentors are AES Fellows and senior evaluators who have volunteered to act as mentors to a small group of mentees. Each mentor will meet with a group of up to five mentees once per month over the course of six months. The structure of each group’s mentorship program will be flexible, depending on the mentor’s specialisation focus, and needs and goals of the mentees involved. It will be up to the mentor and mentees in each group to negotiate a mutually agreeable format and common goal.
The group mentoring program is intended to support an evolving understanding of the needs and expectations of mentees, as well as potential models that would work for the AES membership. As such, the program will be evaluated to support the development of future iterations of the mentoring program. Participants of the program will be expected to participate in the evaluation.
Mentor expressions of interest open
25 February – 18 March 2022
Mentors selected and notified
21 March 2022
Mentee expressions of interest open to mentees
25 March – 8 April 2022
Mentees selected and notified
20 April 2022
Orientation session for mentees and mentors
27 April 2022
Early May 2022
Mentoring program ends
What is group mentoring?
Group mentoring involves a mentor working with a group of mentees with similar interests in pursuit of their professional development goals.
Mentoring is intended to support mentee’s professional development, growth, and competencies as evaluation practitioners. Unlike a traditional one-to-one mentoring program, group mentoring also benefits participants through having access to diverse experiences and perspectives supporting the development of a richer understanding of the practice of evaluation. Not only are mentees able to build relationships with their mentors, but they are also able to build relationships with their peers and it is intended that this peer support network will provide a sustainable benefit to mentees beyond the program.
The AES online, group mentoring pilot takes a broad approach to defining mentoring. It allows each group to bring to the fore, in different ways, the following aspects:
A structured relationship between an expert evaluator (the mentor) to provide guidance and support to less experienced evaluators (the mentees). Through serving as a role model, sharing their insights, listening objectively, acting as a sounding board, and making suggestions, mentors facilitate the development and application of critical problem-solving skills in decision-making by mentees. They may ask open questions to challenge ways of thinking and actions taken by mentees to handle or manage difficult situations or to make progress towards their professional development goals. This relationship has a holistic focus on professional development and is based on respect, mutual trust, encouragement, constructive comments, and commitment to mentoring goals. It is goal-oriented and driven by the mentee, with the mentee being responsible for their own development.
Small groups of up to six mentees who develop their capacity together and learn from one another. This element resembles formal peer support mechanisms and communities of practice that are intended to provide mutual social support. Here, the mentor facilitates the sharing of mentee experiences to work through challenging situations and shares their own experience.
Knowledge and skill-based development in specific areas that are directly relevant to the mentee’s workplace responsibilities. For example, knowledge about the theoretical foundations of evaluation which are distinct from other forms of inquiry; value perspectives embedded within an evaluand; research methods for data collection and analysis; the tasks carried out during an evaluation; or explore specific issues related to a particular sector. The mentor’s role is sharing their own knowledge, skills and experiences, guiding mentees to appropriate resources, facilitating mentees in sharing their own experiences, asking questions, providing feedback and offering suggestions.
Roles and responsibilities
All participants must be AES members. Both the mentor, associate mentors and mentees are expected to commit to the relationship and dedicate time to its success. All participants are expected to:
- Read program guidelines and policies.
- Attend any preparation sessions.
- Sign and submit a mentoring agreement.
- Agree on a mentoring schedule, session expectations, individual and group professional goals.
- Attend mentoring meetings, prepare appropriately, and attempt any follow up actions.
- Actively participate in meetings and support fellow mentors and mentees.
- Be professional, respectful and observe confidentiality.
- If you have any questions or concerns arise contact the program support officer.
- Participate in required evaluations and feedback.
The mentors will lead their mentoring group, of up to six mentees, while working in partnership with an associate mentor to run the mentoring sessions. Mentoring groups will meet a minimum of once per month for six months. The structure of each group’s mentorship program will be flexible, depending on the mentor’s specialisation focus, and the needs and goals of the mentees involved. It will be up to the mentor / associate mentor and mentees in each group to negotiate a mutually agreeable format and common goal.
Responsibilities of the mentor include the following:
- Commit to mentees through sharing experience and providing practical advice.
- Assist mentees to set an achievable individual and/or group goal.
- Be inclusive, considering the experiences and needs of people of all levels of expertise and experience in evaluation as well as other professional skills and abilities, cultural protocols and preferred ways of working, genders, and sexualities.
- Assist the mentee to plan for success.
- Provide advice and guidance as required.
- Reflect on progress.
The associate mentor’s role is to support the mentor to lead the mentoring group, assisting the mentor to plan and run the sessions. The associate mentor will keep in touch with the mentor and mentees between meetings and act as back up to the mentor.
The AES Group Mentoring program is intended to support the professional development of mentees through the translation of their mentoring goals into professional practice. To maximise the benefits of the program, mentees are required to::
- identify their own personal mentoring goals, objectives, and motivations
- attend mentoring online meetings throughout the duration of the program
- attempt any pre or post meeting tasks
- actively participate in online meeting discussions and group dialogue between meetings
- engage in reflective practice and application of their learning
- track and communicate progress towards identified goal(s)
- communicate and work through challenges
- contribute to the program monitoring and evaluation activities when requested.
Mentoring Program Committee
The Mentoring Program Committee:
- Leads Phase 1: Program set up by;
– promoting the program to potential mentors, associate mentors, and mentees
– conducting the mentor, associate mentor and mentee selection and matching process
- Develops the program guide
- Supports the Mentoring Phase of the program by;
– leading the program orientation session
– chairing the Mentor Support Meetings.
Mentor Project Officer
The Mentoring Project Officer is responsible for coordinating the administration of the program. This involves:
- Conducting membership liaison and communication including for the mentee nomination and selection process.
- Acting as the first point of contact for mentors and coordinating the development and sharing of a mentor resource pack.
- Acting as a point of contact for program participants throughout the program.
- Regularly checking in on program participants.
- Setting up key online meetings such as:
– Initial orientation session for mentees and mentors
– Final closing session for mentees and mentors.
- Coordinating Pulse survey with mentees 2 or 3 times during the course of the program.
- Supporting the evaluation of the program through survey set up, coordination of focus groups and interviews and statistical analysis of survey results.
Phase 1: Program set up
Mentors and associate mentors’ nomination
The Mentoring Program Committee reviews the mentor nominations and selects mentors based on their professional qualifications and experience, evaluation specialisation and focus and motivations for becoming involved in the program. Applicants who are not selected may be approached to participate as an associate mentor if appropriate.
Associate mentors selected
The Mentoring Program Committee reviews the associate mentor nominations and selects associate mentors based on their professional qualifications and experience, evaluation specialisation and focus and motivations for becoming involved in the program. Where a selected mentor has expressed a preference for a particular associate mentor, this will be seriously considered. Applicants who are not selected may be approached to participate as a mentee if appropriate.
Mentors and associate mentors matched
The pairing of mentors and associate mentors will be done by the Mentoring Program Committee.
Matching mentors and associate mentors will be based on:
- the associate mentors’ area of specific interest
- areas of experience
- any expressed preferences.
Mentors and associate mentors will be consulted to confirm they are happy with the suggested matching.
Potential mentees nominate through the mentee online form where personal, professional and motivational details are collected and collated. Mentees are also asked to indicate which mentoring group they are particularly interested in and why. The professional biographies of mentors and a summary of their mentoring group’s focus are available on the AES website.
Interested mentees are required to complete the online nomination form by 8 April. The nomination form can be found here.
Mentees selected and matched
The Mentoring Program Committee reviews the mentee nominations and selects mentees based on::
- mentee’s stated goals/expectations and alignment with their preferred mentorship focus
- the diversity of personal and professional backgrounds within each group (to support peer learning)
- the alignment of interests of each group to other potential mentees in the group (to support the group in working towards common goals).
Applicants who are not selected will be notified of the outcome and can reapply for future rounds.
Phase 2 Mentoring
Mentor Support Meetings
The Mentor Support Meetings enable mentors and associate mentors to share resources, advice and support to ensure effective engagement, collaboration and facilitate peer to peer relationship building in an online environment. These online meetings are held monthly and chaired by the Mentoring Project Officer.
Online orientation session
An orientation session for mentors, associate mentors and mentees is held prior to the commencement of the mentoring groups.
The purpose of the online orientation session is to:
- Provide an overview of the mentoring model, structure and how it has evolved as a result of previous evaluation.
- Clarify the roles and responsibilities of mentors, associate mentors and mentees.
- Allow mentoring groups to become acquainted and decide on their communications systems (such as WhatsApp) for out of session communication.
- Introduce participants to the Mentoring Project Officer and their role.
- Explain the participants expected contribution to the program monitoring and evaluation activities.
Ongoing mentoring sessions
Each mentoring group‘s approach will be different, depending on the objectives, experiences and needs of the participants. Suggestions for the first, subsequent and final meetings are outlined below.
First mentoring group meeting
Introductions, expectations and goal setting
The first meeting is critical for establishing the foundations of a successful mentoring relationship. At the orientation session the mentor and associate mentor will coordinate a mutually agreeable date for the first meeting of the mentoring group. The mentor and associate mentor will coordinate a mutually agreeable date for the first meeting of the mentoring group at the orientation session. Future meeting dates will be decided during the first meeting and set up by the mentor.
Essential to a successful mentoring relationship are two important aspects, which should be addressed within this first meeting to help set the group up for success:
- Setting expectations and objectives. These should be prepared in advance by all participants for a facilitated discussion and negotiation.
- Developing a relationship based on trust and respect. In a group mentoring scenario, this requires both trust between mentors and mentees, and amongst mentees. During the first meeting, the group will focus on getting to know one another.
Suggested discussion points for the first meeting:
- Getting to know each other – sharing brief histories
- Ground rules for working together
- Mentee expectations, goals and motivations
- Future meeting dates
- Confirming everyone has access to out of session platforms for between meeting communication.
Ongoing mentoring meetings
The following structures were demonstrated to be helpful in the evaluation of the online group mentoring pilot and are recommended:
Monthly, or more frequently by mutual agreement
incorporates a range of useful engagement and learning transfer techniques, such as:
- Check in with mentees
- Reflection on application of the previous meeting topic – how have members applied the information and how did it go for them
- Meeting topic discussion
- Bring a problem (rotating schedule for participants) where all group members debate a topic.
Pulse check surveys (e.g., a five-minute anonymous online survey) may be used to provide mentors and the Mentoring Program Committee with greater feedback about how the program is progressing and any minor improvements that could be implemented.
Additional surveying and data collection may occur throughout the duration of the program to inform the program evaluation.
Final mentoring group meeting
It is suggested that the final mentoring meetings be used for informal reflection on progress and areas for continued development and discussion about ongoing contact.
Phase 3: AES Group Mentoring Program evaluation
All program participants will be expected to participate in evaluation activities throughout the course of and following completion of the mentorship program. This may include records of self-assessments, surveys, interviews and focus groups. Appointments for focus groups and interviews will be set up well in advance to encourage participation.
The Mentoring Program Committee encourages any suggestions and feedback on the program at any stage from all participants. Feedback can be provided to the Mentoring Project Officer.
Following completion of the program evaluation, all participants will be invited to a presentation where findings, insights and future plans will be discussed.
What else do I need to know?
Ending the relationship early
Where a mentor or mentee cannot or does not wish to continue participating in the mentorship, they should notify the Mentoring Project Officer of their decision at the earliest opportunity.
In situations where this is due to difficulties between members of the group, or between the mentee and mentor, the Mentoring Project Officer should be notified. If this participant wishes to work through the issue, a member of the Mentoring Program Committee will support the facilitation of this. Otherwise, the Mentoring Agreement includes a ‘no fault’ clause, which enables the mentee or mentor to end the mentoring relationship without any blame attached.
Code of conduct
All participants are expected to adhere to the responsibilities outlined in the Roles and Responsibilities section of this document.
In particular, participants must:
- Always observe confidentiality.
- Maintain professional behaviour.
- Fulfill agreed commitments.
- Contact the Mentoring Project Officer with any concerns or difficulties.