Mentoring Undergraduate Students in Estuarine Research Experiences: Different Strokes for Different Folks
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Here we consider how mentoring, both traditional and peer based, contributes to successful student outcomes in undergraduate research programs and we present several approaches to encourage positive mentor-mentee relationships. From several different research mentoring programs with undergraduates in Maryland and in Puerto Rico, we find that some mentoring techniques are universally useful, while others need to be tailored to a specific program and mentee population. Our programs differ in length, student composition, and student expectations, we find that success occurs across-the-board when mentors quickly establish rapport with their students and reach an early joint understanding of the program’s requirements and the students’ capabilities and needs through immersive orientations early in the program. Alternatively, mentors have to customize their approaches (e.g. simplify presentations of concepts, increase time for questions) when they encounter differences in student knowledge levels and cultural disconnects (e.g. language barriers, unfamiliarity with research labs and academia). Our current approach to improving and evaluating mentoring includes using a system of multiple mentor tiers (peer, near-peer, faculty, and program leaders), multiple qualitative and quantitative evaluations during the program, and post-research experience student outreach, all of which we believe improve student outcomes. Although we have measures of mentee success (e.g., presenting at national meetings, pursuing additional research experiences, applying to graduate school in marine science-related fields, etc.), we continue to look for additional short and long-term evaluation techniques that may help us to distinguish between the influence of mentoring and that of other program attributes (e.g. lab and field experiences, professional development seminars, ethics training, etc.) on student achievement.