Using developmental mentoring and coaching approaches in academic and professional development to address feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’


  • Fiona Kolontari
  • Megan Lawton Professor
  • Sarah Rhodes Mrs



Imposter syndrome, mentoring, coaching, neurodiversity, academic practice, affirmation model, professional development


We are three women who have all helped each other in our university careers. We are from different backgrounds, have varying educational experiences and have different roles. All three of us are neurodiverse and champion inclusive learning, teaching, and assessment in our professional roles and from personal experiences. Developmental mentoring and coaching brought us together to address feelings of discomfort in work situations where we second guess our own abilities. We have felt the effects of ‘imposter syndrome’ (Clance & Imes, 1978) but through mentoring we recognize our successes are justified. In this article we question the notion of ‘imposter syndrome’ and ask why this might be disproportionally applied to women (Tulshyan & Burey, 2021). We also offer an affirmation model of disability (Swain & French, 2000) as a framework, asking how this can be applied in a broader intersectional context. Recognising our abilities and not having a tragic view of disabilities has enabled us to challenge attitudes towards inclusive learning and teaching. We can all demonstrate our abilities but some of us would like to do this differently than in a Higher Education traditional environment. We give a theoretical, personal, and professional context and appraise two different mentoring models - sponsorship and development (Megginson, Clutterbuck, Garvey, Stokes and Garret-Harris, 2006), reflecting on how developmental mentoring and coaching can be used for academic and professional development related to inclusive learning and teaching.

Author Biographies

Fiona Kolontari

Fiona Kolontari is a Specialist Tutor (Neurodiversity) and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). She is also a Senior Accredited Member (SAMNADP) and Director of the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP). Fiona authored sections of her institution’s Race Equality Charter on intersectionality and the Action Framework for Disability Equality.

Megan Lawton, Professor

Megan Lawton, Professor of Learning and Teaching in Academic Practice became a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) in 2017. She is passionate about challenging traditional approaches to learning from her experiences of dyslexia. She is Co-Chair of her University’s Disabled Staff Network.

Sarah Rhodes, Mrs

Sarah Rhodes has a PG Cert in HEP, SFHEA and Associate CIPD. She is External Examiner for PG Cert Teaching in HE and External Assessor for the Advance HE CPD Scheme at UWTSD. PGCE PCE teacher and Joint Leader for the PG Cert Academic Practice course. She is an internal mentor and reviewer.


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