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Teaching and Mentoring Students

Teaching and Mentoring Students

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Teaching and Mentoring Students

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  1. Teaching and Mentoring Students Lori A. Clarke University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  2. Teaching and Mentoring • An important part of a professor’s life • Teach undergraduate courses • Mentor undergraduates • Teach graduate courses • Mentor graduates • The best of times, the worst of times

  3. Best of Times • Play a part in improving someone’s life • See them gain confidence • See them grow intellectually and personally • See them develop skills • To do research • Write papers • Give presentations • To have a successful career • Worthwhile and rewarding endeavor • Lifelong learning experience for you

  4. Worst of Times • Preparing class material is time consuming • Assigning grades (hws, exams, course) takes a lot of time • Very important to the student • Try to be fair and objective • Unpleasant • Dealing with students who are unhappy with their grade • Dealing with students who just want to pass • Dealing with cheating • Dealing with excuses • …

  5. Teaching Conundrum • Must do an adequate job in your teaching to achieve tenure • Can never spend enough time on teaching to get it “right” • Lectures, projects, exams,… could always be better • If you spend too much time on teaching, you will not get tenure

  6. ClassroomTeaching • Put syllabus, assignments, course notes online • Be clear about expectations • Late assignments, missing assignments, make-up policy • Individual or team efforts • Consequences of cheating • Only change requirements if necessary and do so only to the students’ benefit • Encourage interaction in the classroom • There are no “bad” questions • Make lemonaid out of lemons • Make participation a required part of the class • Informal or formal

  7. Classroom Teaching • Be prepared--takes time, but worth it • Be on time • Be available during stated office hours and respond to email • Help students individually • Be responsive when special needs arise • But, not obligated to re-teach course to a student who has not done their part • Not attended the lectures • Not read the material

  8. Classroom Teaching • Make the class challenging, but not impossible • Assess how well the class is going • Mid point evaluation • questionnaire, classroom feedback, email • End of semester evaluation • Plan when to distribute the questionnaire • Teaching concerns • Ask someone you respect and trust to observe your class and provide feedback • Team teach with a “good teacher” • Use campus teaching support services

  9. Teaching Portfolio • Develop a portfolio of courses you can teach • Low level, high level, graduate level courses • Teach classes close to your research area • Limit number of courses in your portfolio • First time course development is time consuming • Reuse past material (yours or others) • Refresh or introduce some new material each time you reteach a course • Remember, it can always be better, but… • Best researchers are usually good (and often great) teachers

  10. Teaching Graduate Courses • Teach in area of expertise (or in areas where you want to gain expertise) • Attracts graduate students • Helps you assess graduate students • Courses deeper and faster paced • MUST be prepared • Reputation depends to some extent on how well you teach graduate classes • You will learn a lot

  11. Teaching Graduate Courses • Important goals • Teach new concepts, new ways to solve problems • Encourage critical thinking • Teach the scientific method • Hypothesis and evaluation • Teach good communication skills • Writing and speaking

  12. Mentoring Undergraduates • Advising • Classes to take • Career planning • Insist on a face-to-face meeting • Don’t just cover the basics • Find out how they are “really” doing • Discuss career options • Graduate school • Industrial options • Volunteer to review job or graduate school application material • Encourage students: a kind word can mean a great deal, especially to students from underrepresented groups

  13. Undergraduate Research • Need a well-defined, limited research project with easy to track milestones • Should not be on the critical path • Can pair ungrad(s) with a grad student • Include ugrads in lab activities • Meet regularly and lay out well defined goals • Many ways to “fund” undergrads • Grant funding, REUs • Independent study, honors project • Need to match project with student’s skills • Often need to adjust on the fly

  14. Mentoring Graduate Students • Meet regularly • Review accomplishments since the last meeting • Encourage students to bring work products, to keep an (electronic) notebook • Provide feedback • strengths and weaknesses • Agree on what the student is expected to accomplish next • Let the student propose next steps • Revise accordingly • e.g., too ambitious, too limited, should pursue some intermediate steps or totally new direction • Discuss short term goals (e.g. next meeting) • Review longer term, broader goals • Reveal your thought processes

  15. How to get students started doing research • Push them off a cliff and see if they land on their feet • Teach them how to rappel first • Start out with a “relatively” well defined task • Discuss the problems that arise and encourage them to think of solutions • Help direct their search for solutions • Revisit the task and view it from a larger perspective, widen the problem and repeat • Reveal your thought processes • Discuss alternatives • Explain choices • Lead, collaborate, follow

  16. When is a student finished? • One size does not fit all • Accomplishments will impact • Advisor’s letter of recommendation • Job choices

  17. Many topics to cover • How to do research • Different paradigms • How to review and evaluate the literature • How to communicate with colleagues • 3 minute elevator talk, 10 minute version • How to give a presentation • Outline first • Review slides • Practice talk(s) • How to write-up results for a paper • Outline, outline, outline

  18. And more topics • What to publish and where • How to obtain grants • How to behave professionally • How to look for a job • Balancing life and career after graduation • …

  19. Not all graduate students are diamonds hidden in the rough • Discuss the problem • Consider different approaches • Consider different research areas • Put the student on a measured mile, with clear objectives • May help make it clear to you and to the student that it is not working • Or may energize the student to do better • Perhaps the student is not a good match with • your personality • your research style or area • or maybe the student should not be a graduate student

  20. Lifelong committment • “Advisor” for life • Always available to help with problems • Promote (former) student’s career • Recommend for program committees, awards, workshops, etc.

  21. Last words • Will not get tenure based on good teaching, but may not get tenure because of bad teaching • You have tremendous influence • Use it wisely • Praise good work • Encourage students • Best part of being a faculty member is working with students • Enjoy the experience!