Open Access Peer-reviewed

Open Doors and Clear Bound Aries: Mentorship in the Changing Context of Graduate Medical Education

Jennifer M. Charlesworth1,, Sarah Knudson2, Mary V. Seeman1, 3

1Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

2St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

3Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

American Journal of Educational Research. 2013, 1(1), 17-21. DOI: 10.12691/education-1-1-4
Published online: August 25, 2017


Effective mentorship can mean the difference between success and failure in any career. We set out to examine mentorship (the student-supervisor relationship) of graduate students in a Medical Faculty. Themes were extracted from taped and transcribed focus group data gathered at an intervention workshop held for students and supervisors of the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto in November 2010. This was supplemented with 6 in-depth, semi-structured, 60 minute interviews with students and supervisors completed in spring 2012. Three important themes needed for effective mentorship were extracted: 1) on-going, frank, informal communication, 2) mutually understood, evolving boundaries that address needs of students and supervisors and 3) supportive independence for students permitting growth and development. In conclusion, graduate faculties must develop and implement policies that encourage mentorship-friendly environments in order to ensure faculty accountability to students while, at the same time, avoiding rigid, bureaucratic approaches to graduate supervision.


Mentorship, Supervision, Graduate Education, Research, Academic Medicine, Thematic Analysis
[1]  Lee, A., Dennis, C., and Campbell, P., “Nature’s guide for mentors,” Nature, 447. 791-797, June 2007.View Article  PubMed
[2]  Brown, R., Daly, B., and Leong, F., “Mentoring in Research: A Developmental Approach,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40 (3). 306-313, June 2009.View Article
[3]  Gurr, G., “Negotiating the ‘Rackety Bridge’—a Dynamic Model of Aligning Supervisory Style with Research Student Development,” Higher Education Research & Development, 20 (1). 81-92, May 2001.View Article
[4]  Editorial. “Mentoring matters,” Nature Cell Biology, 12 (2). 101, Feb. 2010.View Article  PubMed
[5]  Collins, P., “The Interpersonal Vicissitudes of Mentorship:View Article
[6]  An Exploratory Study of the Field Supervisor-Student Relationship,” The Clinical Supervisor, 11 (1). 121-135, 1993.
[7]  Hicks, R. and McCracken, J., “Mentoring vs. Coaching—Do You Know the Difference?” Physician Executive Journal. 71-73, July/August 2009.
[8]  Davis, K., Seeman, M.V, Chapman, J. and Rotstein, O., “A graduate student oath,” Science, 320 (5883). 1587-1588, June 2008. PubMed
[9]  McCracken, G., The Long Interview, Qualitative Research Methods Series 13, Sage, Beverley Hills, CA, 1988.
[10]  Styles, I. and Radloff, A., “The Synergistic Thesis: student and supervisor perspectives,” Journal of Further and Higher Education, 25 (1). 97-106, 2001.View Article
[11]  Tenenbaum, H., Crosby, F., and Gilner, M., “Mentoring Relationships in Graduate School,” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59. 326-341, Dec. 2001.View Article
[12]  Deem, R. and Brehony, K., “Doctoral Students’ Access to Research Cultures—are some more unequal than others?” Studies in Higher Education, 25 (2). 149-165, June 2000.
[13]  Leder, G., “Higher degree research supervision: a question of balance,” Australian Universities’ Review, 2. 5-8, 1995.View Article
[14]  Malfroy, J., “Doctoral supervision, workplace research and changing pedagogic practices,” Higher Education Research & Development, 24 (2). 165-178, 2005.
[15]  Stacey, E. and Fountain, W., “Student and Supervisor Perspectives in a Computer-Mediated Research Relationship,” in Meeting at the Crossroads: Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, ASCILITE, 519-528. Dec. 2001.View Article
[16]  Millson, M. and Wilemon, D., “Technology enabling innovation in online graduate management education,” International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management, 5 (4). 401-421, Dec. 2008.View Article
[17]  Rudestam, K., “Distributed education and the role of online learning in training professional psychologists,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35 (4). 427-432, Aug. 2004.
[18]  Tisdell, E., Carver, M., Corrigan, P., Nash, J., Nelson, M., Royer, M., Strom-Mackey, R. and O’Connor, M., “Cohort Learning Online in Graduate Higher Education: Constructing Knowledge in Cyber Community,” Educational Technology & Society 7 (1). 115-127, Jan. 2004.