The Science and Art of Mentoring
September 10, 2018
Christine Pfund, Director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), recently published an article in ASCB.
We often do not seize the numerous opportunities we are afforded to shape the learning experiences of our mentees, let alone influence the environments in which those experiences transpire. We do not frequently enough embrace the art of mentoring.
Stretching beyond Best Practices
Contemplate the scenario of working with a new undergraduate or graduate student. Experienced mentors, using evidence-based practices, understand the importance of helping new mentees develop a research project, establishing and aligning clear expectations for the relationship, and communicating regularly and effectively. Some best practices toward achieving these aims include 1) thoughtful, intentional project design that takes into account the mentee’s background and interests; 2) use of written mentoring compacts (examples can be found at https://bit.ly/2lFc2Qz), and 3) regular conversations using active listening strategies.
Yet even the most skilled mentors can stretch beyond these best practices. They can improve the learning experiences they are shaping by purposely providing opportunities for the mentees to network and engage with others, finding ways for mentees to immerse themselves in the discipline, fostering a sense of belonging within the research team and the department, and creating spaces for mentees to share their ideas.