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Friday, October 10, 2014

When Mentoring Undergraduates, Educate, Don't Regulate

This post was originally published on the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School's "student voices" blog. I've reposted the first bit here, and you can find the full text here.

"Universities often advertise student to faculty ratios in publicity pamphlets. Would you want to go to a class where the ratio was 1,000 to 1? How about 20 to 1? 8 to 1?

What about 1 to 1?

Undergraduate students who get involved in research put themselves in a unique position. They typically work under the direct supervision of an older graduate student or, in some cases, a faculty member. At a school as large as the University of Michigan, such a close student/teacher relationship is difficult to come by and provides a rare experience to workshop creative and critical thinking skills.

Undergraduate research can be a transformative experience for young students who don’t know what opportunities are out there for them. However, on the other side as graduate student mentors, it’s unfortunately easy to downplay the importance of the mentorship as a teaching experience, especially in the face of the laundry list of other obligations that comes with graduate education.

In a recent post over at Tree Town Chemistry, I interviewed Dr. Ginger Shultz of the Chemistry Department. “Modern educational psychology says that knowledge is constructed by the learner,” she wrote in reference to classroom teaching (read the whole article here). That idea is even more powerful in a mentor/mentee relationship and has been central to my approach over my last two years mentoring undergraduate researchers. And, while I make no claims to perfection or anything close to it, I will use this post to pass on a few ideas that I feel have helped me to be more successful as a graduate student mentor."

Check out the rest of this article at the student voices portal by following this link. While you're there, support student bloggers and check out a few of the other articles!

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