Generating a mentoring relationship

Having volunteered to mentor undergraduate students in our Honors College, I now have to learn how to develop mentoring relationships that are helpful.  At this stage what is clear is: Read more of this post


Guided tour of my mentoring, illustrations


My mentoring has included many initiatives, each reflecting one of more of the four considerations in the previous post. They are arranged below in approximate chronological order of when I began working on them. Of course, not all of the initiatives have been successful or sustainable. Read more of this post

Guided Tour of my mentoring, themes


Four considerations underlie my mentoring of students, graduates, and junior colleagues–at UMass Boston and elsewhere: Read more of this post

Themes, Practices, Resources for Faculty-initiated Mentoring

Instead of presenting one person’s advice about what to do in the area of teaching to increase one’s chances of getting tenured, the presentation (on teaching for pre-tenure colleagues in the College of Education, 11 Feb. ’08) was more of a workshop on “Reflective Practice.” In its simplest form, this is the idea that we experiment/take risks, montor/take stock of how things work, and feed that back into improvements.

The workshop began with participants noting on a “Self-mentoring” worksheet ideas they already had about what they did well and what they wanted to improve. They could add to the worksheet as they heard useful ideas during the session.

I proposed that, paradoxically, the best way to approach teaching to get tenure (and be happy teaching in the years beyond) is to act like the most important thing is not what the tenure review committee thinks. Why? Because:

  • the reviewers are likely to overlook or discount things we have done. (Participants used notecards to write anonymously their fears/bad experiences in this regard and some of these were read out.)
  • an assessment by others at one point of time is not enough to sustain us; and so
  • our teaching (like all things in life?) needs to have value in itself for ourselves. (My plan was that participants would do a guided freewriting on what’s important, but I forgot to ask for this. See back side of worksheet.]

I proposed that reflective practice is one route to teaching having a value in itself, because it affirms one’s creativity/generativity. Participants were asked for their themes and practices of reflective practice, then I ran through some of his own (hear the audio below and see the notes & links that follow). The session ended with a go-around in which participants noted one thing they are taking away to chew on/work with.

  • You already know a lot about the topic at hand, so begin the session (or course) by acknowledging and exposing that knowledge in its diversity. (“you” = participants in a session, students in a class) e.g., “Self-mentoring worksheet”
  • We need to clear mental space so that thoughts about an issue in question can emerge that had been below the surface of our attention. Guided Freewriting
  • Toolbox & Creativity The more items in your tool box—the more themes, heuristics (rules of thumb), and open questions you are working with—the more likely you are to make a new connection and see how things could be otherwise, that is, to be creative. Yet, in order to build up a set of tools that works for you, it is necessary to experiment, take risks, and reflect on the outcomes. Such “reflective practice” is like a journey into unfamiliar or unknown areas—it involves risk, opens up questions, creates more experiences than can be integrated at first sight, requires support, and yields personal change. (See
  • Reflective practice as regular “plus, delta.”
  • Do yourself in the future a favor e.g., annotate syllabus and prepare revised version as you go
  • Multiple audiences/kinds of evaluation (for improvement by instructor/leader, for improvement by students/participants, for decision making by future students, for decision-making advice by superiors)
  • Do yourself in the future a favor II e.g., full revision of syllabus at end of semester

The responsibilities that accompany the power of an academic administrator

The responsibilities that accompany the power of an academic administrator in any unit include to:

  • show respect for people’s individual career and life projects
  • support the people to do the best work they can within constrained circumstances
  • support faculty members preserve a balance between scholarship, service, and teaching even if that means we set limits and forego worthwhile opportunities
  • promote mentoring and sharing of innovations and achievements
  • consult and listen
  • be transparent and inclusive in consultation re: formulating and deciding on procedures and proposed changes in procedures
  • be careful and efficient with administrative detail
  • make institutional learning possible through documentation of the outcome of deliberations about procedures
  • be organized so that there is sufficient time for careful reviews, searches, consideration of procedural changes, etc. and a fair division of labor in this work
  • model e-etiquette in email discussions (e.g., treating communication as private unless sent to a group as a whole)
  • take care for colleagues’ reputations when disputes arise, especially colleagues coming up for or currently under review. (This requires attention to what is documented and accessible to all involved, and avoidance of hearsay.)
  • heal wounds
  • make one’s own objectives explicit (over and above the ones here)
  • report regularly to the unit on progress on each of these objectives (one’s own and the objectives here)
  • evaluate staff that you supervise at regular intervals in a way that supports their improvement and follows the necessary procedures if any staff member is not able to fulfill their duties and needs to be dismissed
  • establish supervision of staff at the level as close as possible to the people served and a systematic means of feedback to the supervisor from those served. (E.g., staff serving a departmental program might formally report to the Department chair, but the chair could delegate supervision to the program director.)
  • hold up these principles to higher administrators

The responsibilities that accompany the power of an academic administrator in the College of Ed ( a college that, where I work, consists almost exclusively of a number of distinct Masters and doctoral programs) include to:

  • promote a vision of the Departments and College that does not subordinate the non-PEU (accreditation unit) programs to the requirements of the PEU programs
  • highlight the distinctive contributions of the smaller programs to counterbalance the numerical and institutional dominance of the larger PEU programs
  • promote, not suppress programs as the basic units through which students are educated in the College of Ed, which means departments can help in coordinating programs but cannot supplant them
  • promote Departmental visions that are distinct from, but support, those of the individual programs
  • respect program faculty members’ role as the people able to decide how best to pursue that mission within the constraints of the limited resources available
  • recognize the work of the faculty with lead responsibility in the programs (whatever name is now given to that position) in words, communication of information, consultation and planning, reviews for merit and promotion
  • make explicit the rationale for allocation of resources among the Department and programs and move towards equity based on that rationale
  • develop “apprenticeship” relations so that faculty can apply for leave without worrying that responsibilities they have been fulfilling might be neglected in their absence
  • establish procedures and practices that allowed us to communicate and work very efficiently with the reduced resources available. (In particular, each Program should establish a detailed set of web- or wiki-pages to streamline advising)
  • support educational transformation and not simply accommodate to the dominant, regressive forces buffeting public education
  • actively engage in inner-urban education and communities

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