Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mentorship and apprenticeship: working with graduate students

The bulk of my day today involved meetings with graduate students. Currently, I am supervising several doctoral and masters students as they propose, carry out and write up their graduate research projects. First thing this morning, I skyped with two doctoral students: one who has written the candidacy paper and is preparing for the candidacy exam, and another who is overseas and is preparing a literature review and research proposal. Later this morning, I met with a master of arts student who is also teaching full-time. After lunch, I met with a master of science student, a faculty member and two IT folks who are members of the team that will research the use of clickers with large lectures this Fall.

I regard graduate supervision as one of the most important types of teaching and mentorship that I do, and thus, invest a great deal of effort into building productive, research-focused mentoring relationships with graduate students. In addition to stretching me as a researcher, graduate supervision is time-intensive, emotionally demanding and hands-on work. Graduate supervision is sometimes like 2 - 3 years of formative assessment that leads up to a high stakes summative assessment, the 2 hour oral exam! Ongoing professional and academic dialogue and planning, coursework and advising, proposing and carrying out research, writing, writing, reading, reading and rewriting and rereading drafts of each chapter, and then preparing for the exam... it is a process of continual improvement, peer review and academic advancement.

Working with graduate students is both a privilege and an honor. I learn a great deal from my teaching role as a supervisor and committee member for educational technology, nursing, environmental design, computer science and psychology graduate students, and also as an active researcher who mentors graduate research assistants.

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