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Science Writing and Communications Intern, Genetics Society of America.
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Improving research mentor training requires new approaches.


Mentoring is essential for the success of researchers at all career stages, but not all mentor-mentee relationships are created equal. Students from historically underrepresented backgrounds often receive less mentoring than their peers, and many mentors are not trained in how to mentor effectively. To address some of these needs, Entering Mentoring, an evidence-based program for research mentor training, was developed and shown to be effective in improving mentoring. 

Of course, such programs are only useful if people have access to them. In CBE—Life Sciences Education, Spencer et al. report on the infrastructure they have created to facilitate more widespread research mentor training.

The first hurdle that must be cleared for more mentors to receive training is to have more people capable of giving the training. Therefore, the authors took a train-the-trainer approach and recruited and trained master facilitators to instruct others in how to implement research mentor training, termed facilitator training. This approach has resulted in nearly 600 people being trained as facilitators, with over 4,000 mentors receiving research mentor training.

In order to be broadly useful, training for mentors needs to be applicable in a variety of settings, including at different institutions and for researchers at multiple career stages. The original Entering Mentoring program was designed as a summer seminar for graduate students mentoring undergraduates, but it has been expanded for different research areas and for those mentoring everyone from undergraduates to junior faculty. Modules to address specific concerns, like culturally aware mentoring, have also been developed, and there are resources available for structuring the programs in a variety of formats.

Even though a person might be trained in facilitating research mentor training, actually running such workshops requires time, resources, and support, which are not always available. To help address these concerns, facilitator training workshops were restructured to include resources and strategies for overcoming obstacles to implementation, such as encouraging facilitators at the same or similar institutions to cooperatively plan.

As mentorship programs expand, quality control is necessary to ensure that workshops are productive and that resources are accessible. Therefore, assessment tools were developed for facilitators to evaluate workshops they run, and a centralized evaluation system was developed to more effectively make use of feedback.

By developing this infrastructure, better training will become more accessible for more mentors. Early results of self-reported surveys suggest that research mentor training is already being effectively implemented—ultimately helping make science more accessible and productive. 

CITATION:

Building a Sustainable National Infrastructure to Expand Research Mentor Training

Kimberly C. Spencer, Melissa McDaniels, Emily Utzerath, Jenna Griebel Rogers, Christine A. Sorkness, Pamela Asquith, Christine Pfund

CBE—Life Sciences Education Published Online: 28 Aug 2018

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.18-03-0034

 

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