Learning resource

Physics Research Mentor Training Seminar

January 01, 2011

The Physics Research Mentor Training Seminar is a facilitation guide to a training seminar for physics faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who are in mentorship roles. The guide is intended to help physics researchers improve their mentoring skills, and to improve the research experiences of the next generation of physicists. It is part of a series of guides developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Center for Education Research (WCER) with support from the National Science Foundation. The guides were adapted from the published curriculum, Entering Mentoring, developed at Wisconsin by Dr. Jo Handelsman, Dr. Christine Pfund and colleagues with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation.

This guide provides an outline for a ten-week seminar that includes themes such as establishing expectations, maintaining effective communication, addressing diversity, and dealing with ethical issues. Within each topic, the guide provides learning objectives, suggested activities and assignments, and case studies for discussion, along with discussion guides. The guide also includes a broader set of mentoring-related resources for facilitators.

Even though all research faculty and many postdocs and graduate students are placed in mentorship roles, they rarely receive formal training in how to be an effective mentor. Pfund and her colleagues reported in a 2006 Science article that research mentors who have undergone mentor training communicate more effectively with their mentees and are more likely to engage mentees in discussions on topics such as diversity and student expectations. In addition, undergraduates reported having better experiences with trained mentors than with mentors who had not received training. Good mentorship is also broadly recognized as being important to increasing the diversity of the science community.

This physics guide was prepared by a team consisting of two faculty members, a postdoc, and a graduate student from the physics community, as well as two staff members from the University of Wisconsin who have previously adapted several mentor training curricula. The work was jointly supported by the APS and the NSF-funded Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning Network. The team drew heavily from previous mentor training manuals, and developed new materials when needed. The most significant addition to the manual is an appendix that provides a record of the insights of expert facilitators on typical participant responses, to help new facilitators know what to expect the first time they facilitate a workshop.

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