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

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teaching and mentoring students

Teaching and Mentoring Students

Lori A. Clarke

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

teaching and mentoring
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
best of times
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
worst of times
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
teaching conundrum
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
  • 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
classroom teaching
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
classroom teaching8
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
teaching portfolio
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
teaching graduate courses
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
teaching graduate courses11
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
mentoring undergraduates
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
undergraduate research
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
mentoring graduate students
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
how to get students started doing research
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
when is a student finished
When is a student finished?
  • One size does not fit all
  • Accomplishments will impact
    • Advisor’s letter of recommendation
    • Job choices
many topics to cover
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
and more topics
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
not all graduate students are diamonds hidden in the rough
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
lifelong committment
Lifelong committment
  • “Advisor” for life
  • Always available to help with problems
  • Promote (former) student’s career
    • Recommend for program committees, awards, workshops, etc.
last words
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!