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Learning to level up: personal narratives about mentoring for the professoriate during a crisis

Kathleen Sellers (Educational Leadership, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA)
Tasneem Amatullah (Assessment and School Evaluation Division, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Joel R. Malin (Educational Leadership, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA)

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education

ISSN: 2046-6854

Article publication date: 26 January 2021

Issue publication date: 24 May 2021




The authors' purpose is to illuminate ways in which care within the mentor–mentee relationship influences the efficacy of mentoring for/in the professoriate, within and beyond the novel circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.


A narrative inquiry design drew on the authors' distinct positionalities and experiences of mentoring and being mentored by one another to provide a multi-layered analysis of mentor–mentee relationships. Utilizing care theory, we paid particular attention in our narratives and analysis to the affective dimensions of mentoring within the distinct context created by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Our data analysis revealed three themes: (1) mentor humility was relevant to mentees' success, (2) relationship longevity mattered, and (3) caring mentoring relationships were affectively and empirically generative.

Research limitations/implications

Narrative inquiry, generally, is limited in its generalizability but can be a powerful tool to facilitate knowledge sharing. Our analysis suggests areas which merit further research and may have broader implications. Namely, during trying times the normalization of professor humility may enhance the quality and generativity of the mentoring relationships, especially when combined with networking support.

Practical implications

We make seven recommendations to enhance the efficacy of professors as mentors and mentees in need of mentorship.


Mentors who practice care-for their mentees, as opposed to care-about, enhance the efficacy of the mentoring relationship.



The authors wish to thank Dr. Carol Mullen and their anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and detailed feedback on earlier drafts. Our work is stronger for your caring insights.


Sellers, K., Amatullah, T. and Malin, J.R. (2021), "Learning to level up: personal narratives about mentoring for the professoriate during a crisis", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 173-187.



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