The Australian Evaluation Society’s (AES’s) Group Mentoring Program is part of the AES suite of offerings to support members and improve evaluation methodology, outcomes, and usage. The program was developed in response to a high level of demand for evaluation mentorship identified in the 2019–2022 strategic planning membership survey.
The AES Group Mentoring Program was piloted from January to June 2021, and operated for a second time from May to November 2022. The pilot and the second iteration of the program were both evaluated, and the program was found to be worthwhile for mentors and mentees. Mentees reported an increase in their confidence and appreciation for the field of evaluation, while mentors reported satisfaction in supporting emerging evaluators, and enjoyment of expanding their own thinking through guiding groups of mentees. The evaluation reports can be accessed in the Resources section.
Key features of the program, such as the online group format, focus on mentoring rather than training, and facilitation of peer-to-peer connections, were found to be relevant and useful for participants. The evaluations recommended repeating the program in years to come.
Feedback from both previous evaluations noted that a longer program length would facilitate stronger connections amongst participants. Aligned to this, the volunteer working group organising and administering the program noted that having more time to arrange groups would support the ongoing sustainability of the program. Therefore, in 2023, the AES Group Mentoring Program will run from July 2023 to June 2024, with groups meeting at an agreed frequency (usually monthly) for 12 months. The next iteration of the program is planned to operate from January to December 2025, giving the Working Group six months to wrap up the previous program and initiate the next program.
In the first half of 2023, Working Group is inviting expressions of interest from prospective mentors and mentees for the 2023 Group Mentoring Program.
The AES Group Mentoring Program is an online mentoring program, in which seasoned evaluators guide a small group of emerging and mid-career 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 learning goal and develop their support network in the evaluation field.
The AES Group Mentoring Program operates in three phases:
Mentoring groups are led by a mentor and an associate mentor (where possible), who work as a team to support the learning and development of mentees. Mentors are AES Fellows and senior evaluators who have volunteered to act as mentors to a small group of mentees. Associate mentors are experienced evaluators seeking to develop skills in mentorship. Each mentor will meet with a group of five to seven mentees on an agreed schedule, usually once per month, over the course of ten to twelve months. The structure of each group’s mentorship program will be flexible, depending on the mentor’s specialisation focus, facilitation style preferences, and needs and goals of the mentees involved. It will be up to the mentor, associate mentor and mentees in each group to negotiate their own 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. The program was formally evaluated in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, a monitoring and feedback strategy will be implemented with a view to continual improvement, and the program will not be formally evaluated. The Working Group will consider information and evaluation needs into the future, and will recommend another program evaluation in the future. Participants of the program may be expected to participate in a future evaluation.
Mentor expressions of interest
Due by 18 April 2023
27 April 2023
Mentee expressions of interest open
2 May 2023
Mentee expressions of interest close
15 May 2023
Mentees selected and notified
31 May 2023
Mentors' 1st Community of practice
8 June 2023
Orientation session for mentees and mentors
14 June 2023
First formal mentoring session
Mentoring program ends
What is group mentoring?
Group mentoring involves a mentor working 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 with 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(s) to provide guidance and support to less experienced AES members in which the mentee is responsible for their learning. Through serving as a role model, sharing their insights, listening objectively, acting as a sounding board, and making suggestions, mentors facilitate the learning 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 learning. It is goal-oriented and driven by the mentee.
Small groups of up to six mentees and one or two mentors in which AES members staff share their mentoring experience, 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.
Knowledge and skill-based development in specific areas that are directly relevant to 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; how to take a lead role to embed evaluative thinking in an organisation or explore specific issues related to a particular sector. This is similar to coaching in which the coach directs instruction, provides appropriate direction, and makes suggestions to share expertise within an organisation.
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
- Contact the Project Officer if any questions or concerns arise
- Participate in required evaluations and feedback.
The mentors will lead their mentoring group, of five to seven 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 program and learning from the mentor through this process. 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 learning 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.
The Working Group are volunteers who:
- Set up the program by
- Promoting the program to potential mentors, associate mentors, and mentees
- Conducting the mentor, associate mentor and mentee selection and matching process
- Developing the program guide
- Support the Mentoring Phase of the program by
- Leading the program orientation session
- Chairing the Mentor Support Meetings.
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 mentor
– Final closing session for mentees and mentors.
Coordinating any surveys with mentees during the program
Supporting the evaluation of the program through survey set up and coordination of focus groups and interviews, if required.
Phase 1: Program set up
Mentors and associate mentors’ nomination
Potential mentors and associate mentors are asked to complete a nomination form by 18 April 2023. Enquiries about mentoring can be made by emailing
NOTE: Mentor nominations for 2023 are closed.
The AES Group 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 AES Group 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 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 a mentoring group focus topic they are particularly interested in and why. The professional biographies of mentors and a summary of their mentoring group’s focus are available here.
Interested mentees are required to complete the online nomination form available here.
Mentees selected and matched
The AES Group 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 Community of Practice
The Mentor Community of Practice enables 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 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 based on insights 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 project officer and their role
- Explain the participants expected contribution to the program monitoring activities.
Ongoing mentoring sessions
Each mentoring group‘s approach will be different, depending on the objectives, experiences and specific needs and interests 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 group mentoring relationship. 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 mutual 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.
- Getting to know each other
- Ground rules for working together
- Mentee expectations, goals and motivations
- Making use of available resources including the mentoring journal to support reflective practice
- Future meeting dates
- Confirming everyone has access to out of session platforms for between meeting communication.
- Whether to create an opportunity to get together face-to-face at aes23.
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
- Meeting topic discussion
- Bring a problem (rotating schedule for participants) where all group members debate a topic.
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 monitoring and continuous improvement
All program participants will be expected to participate in monitoring and 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. No formal evaluation is planned for the 2023 program but mentees may be approached to participate in a future evaluation. Appointments for focus groups and interviews will be set up well in advance to encourage participation
The Pathways Committee Mentoring Working Group encourages any suggestions and feedback on the program at any stage from all participants. Formal feedback process will be developed for the 2023 program.
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 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 project officer should be notified. If this participant wishes to work through the issue, the project officer 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 Participant roles and expectations section. In particular, participants must:
- Always observe confidentiality
- Maintain professional behaviour
- Fulfill agreed commitments
- Contact the project officer with any concerns or difficulties.