Learning to Become a More Effective Research or Inquiry-based Project Mentor
How effective of a mentor are you? Have you thought much about this question? Have you participated in training to become a better mentor? For many academics, the typical three answers are “pretty good, I think ... why wouldn’t I be?!”; “I am right now while reading this;” “Uh, no.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed a program called Research Mentor Training to help train scientists in myriad STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, including astronomy, for their crucial role of mentoring the next generation. Most of the
field testing to date has focused on graduate students, post-docs, academic staff, and faculty mentoring undergraduate students who are participating in summer research experiences.
The materials have proven quite effective in other areas as well, with only modest modifications. For example, several faculty cohorts concentrating on mentoring graduate students and post-docs have completed the training. In addition, the materials are used to prepare graduate students and undergraduates to mentor high school
The preferred venue for the mentor training program is a seminar meeting one hour per week for 8 to 9 weeks, plus readings and outside activities, including mentoring a student. However, the structure is flexible, and some meaningful learning can occur in a single 90-minute interactive workshop like the one presented at the 2009ASP
annual meeting, “Science Education and Outreach: Forging a Path to the Future.” All of the materials, including case studies, facilitator notes and guidelines, plus reading
lists, are available online for no charge.1 Users can select pre-built curricula, or they can customize a package using a “shopping cart” interface.