Since 1999 part of my practice has involved operating amongst colleagues in a number of virtual communities of practice, in order to share my reflections on practice and to examine and re-examine my practice by listening to what others say about their practice, and about my reflections. Part of the process of sharing practice and examining practice is delving into context, by asking questions, listening and making abductive connections, and then posing further questions. It amounts to self- and peer-mentoring.

More recently, I have been operating as a peer reviewer to the Journal of Research Practice, and besides providing feedback on writing so far as clarity and structure is concerned, I appear to have been reviewing new researchers’ research writing practice, and wondering: is there something more valuable, beyond typo correcting, beyond critique on clarity and structure and feedback on meeting journal publishing criteria, that I can contribute? In peer reviewing there is probably one chance to ask a question that might take the author from where they are, represented by their submitted draft, to where they could be, represented by what was happening for me as I read what was there in the draft and compared that with my own research journey and research writing experience.

Having done some 9 reviews, there was a point where I stopped and reviewed what I had been doing and how, and gathered a description of my process, and then sought to describe what else I was reaching for as I reviewed. Informed by some recent collaborative work with a supervisor of clinical psychology practice, I express the aim of posing a question, or series of questions, to see if I could take the author further along in their own meaning frame and beyond what they had written so far, as designing some Socratic Questions.

This may be an inappropriate nomenclature for what I am about. There certainly doesn’t appear to be much literature discussing such an approach, and sometimes when I read crafted dialogues claiming to be the Socratic style of investigation I am left with a distinct impression that the questioner knows where they want to take the respondent.

It seems to me that one of the key skills in the practice of mentoring is questioning.

Can you look at your practice of mentoring and think about your questioning …

How would you identify the range and purpose of the questions you pose during mentoring?

Where, in your questioning of another, during mentoring, do you find you have a sense of contributing most to the mentee, in helping them with their thinking?


Dianne Allen, B.Sc., DipEd., MDR (Hons) 1998, M.Ed (Adult Education) 2004, M.Ed (Hons) 2005: Studied Dispute Resolution and Adult Education at UTS, Sydney. Professional Development program designer.

First profession: highschool science teacher 1966, 1968-1973
Second profession: local government various: research officer 1975-6, Chief Librarian 1976-1992, Executive Assistant the the General Manager (Organisational and Policy development and taking the organisation through Award Restructuring) 1992-7, Project Manager 1997-9
Third profession: professional development by reflective research of practice; with some university lecturing (B.Ed core course on research in/of practice) and tutoring (M.Ed core course on Introduction to Educational Research using Narrative approach)
Current professional expression: informal mentoring of professionals via participation in virtual communities of practice, contract assistance for ESL candidates for higher degrees, and voluntary peer reviewing for the Journal of Research Practice