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RECOMMENDATION: IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF MENTORING

In this guide, we have listed many steps that individual faculty members and senior students can take to become more-effective mentors. However, the effectiveness of mentoring at every level is partly a function of institutional support. According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, "Universities, graduate schools, and departments all can play prominent parts in fostering mentorship among faculty members."

Institutions have a large stake in promoting effective mentoring at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and junior-faculty levels. As we have suggested in this guide, improved mentoring is likely to enhance students' educational experience, morale, career planning and placement, and professional competence.

The most direct way for institutions to improve the quality of mentoring is to reward good mentoring. Faculty members at research-oriented institutions are often rewarded for good research but seldom for good mentoring; in fact, faculty might actually be penalized for mentoring to the extent that time devoted to students is time not spent on research.



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OCR for page 65
Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering 6 RECOMMENDATION: IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF MENTORING In this guide, we have listed many steps that individual faculty members and senior students can take to become more-effective mentors. However, the effectiveness of mentoring at every level is partly a function of institutional support. According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, "Universities, graduate schools, and departments all can play prominent parts in fostering mentorship among faculty members." Institutions have a large stake in promoting effective mentoring at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and junior-faculty levels. As we have suggested in this guide, improved mentoring is likely to enhance students' educational experience, morale, career planning and placement, and professional competence. The most direct way for institutions to improve the quality of mentoring is to reward good mentoring. Faculty members at research-oriented institutions are often rewarded for good research but seldom for good mentoring; in fact, faculty might actually be penalized for mentoring to the extent that time devoted to students is time not spent on research.

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Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering Unless good mentoring is embedded in institutional systems of rewards and promotions, it is unfair to expect faculty members to assign high priority to good mentoring. Therefore, we recommend that institutions incorporate mentoring and advising effectiveness in the criteria used for appraisals of faculty performance, including evaluations for the purposes of promotion and tenure. Few institutions have developed mechanisms for appraising mentoring performance. Because techniques of mentoring vary widely among individuals (including the amount of time spent with students, the degree of intervention in student choices, how meetings with students are structured, and the extent of joint activities), qualitative measures are of little value. Given the logical premise that one's mentoring effectiveness is reflected by the later achievements of one's students, however, a number of useful mechanisms for appraising mentoring performance are apparent. For example, institutions could Track the progress of former students to provide information about the career experiences of graduates. Develop a faculty evaluation form and ask third-year graduate students to complete it, assessing how well their mentors (or other faculty members) have contributed to their research, scholarship, and general education. A sample form is available at the NRC Web site: http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/mentor. Collect data from current students on their perceptions of faculty performance in mentoring and advising. In addition to appraising mentoring performance, institutions can take other steps to stimulate better mentoring, including the following:

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Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering Take a more active role in choosing faculty advisers to ensure that those with good mentoring ability are included. Provide guidance on mentoring for new faculty and advisers, which can include briefings, workshops, the assignment of senior mentors, and instructions on campus and Internet resources. Periodic seminars can be held where senior faculty describe good mentoring and junior faculty ask questions; this guide can be used as a resource. Provide discipline-oriented career counselors who can offer students and advisers up-to-date information on the full range of educational and career opportunities for scientists and engineers, including industrial internships, combined degrees, part-time and summer placements, and classes outside their discipline. Sponsor more discussions of topics relevant to mentoring, such as professional standards, ethical values, balancing career and personal life, and finding a good postdoctoral student. Offer students a "guide to mentors" describing their responsibilities and those of mentors and including relevant descriptions of potential mentors and achievements of mentors' former students. Monitor abuses of power by faculty-through departmental oversight, student evaluations, time-to-degree data, and student performance-and include such abuses in the criteria used for faculty evaluation. Hold annual seminars that update faculty on the latest employment trends, internship opportunities, etc., as well as issues such as appropriate faculty-student relations, cultural and ethnic issues, etc.

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Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering Develop requirements for electives and other classes that will broaden the skills and versatility of students. Create an institutional award for distinguished mentors. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have recently instituted such awards on the national level. Recognition at the institutional level is a key first step. Specific techniques of enhancing and rewarding good mentoring must vary by institution. The purpose of this document is not to prescribe techniques, but to encourage a renewed commitment to mentoring at every level. We believe that such a commitment will bring personal as well as professional and institutional rewards to all members of the educational enterprise as they prepare the nation's next generation of scientists and engineers.