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Ten Salient Practices of Undergraduate Research Mentors

Council on Undergraduate Research 2016 Presentation

Jenny Olin Shanahan, Bridgewater State University
Eric Hall, Elon University
Elizabeth Ackley-Holbrook, Roanoke College
Kearsley Stewart, Duke University
Helen Walkington, Oxford Brookes University

We have identified ten salient practices of faculty mentors of undergraduate research, as indicated in the extensive literature of the past two decades. The well-established benefits for students involved in research are dependent, first and foremost, on high quality mentoring. As more and different types of colleges and universities strive to meet student demand for authentic scholarly experiences, it is imperative to identify what effective mentors do in order to ensure student engagement, quality enhancement, retention, and degree-completion. We offer an original analysis of the extensive literature on undergraduate-research mentoring in which we identify ten significant “lessons learned,” or evidence-based practices of effective mentors that apply broadly across disciplines, student demographics, institution types and mentoring approaches.

Salient Practices of Undergraduate Research Mentors

  1. Do strategic pre-planning in order to be ready to respond to students’ varying needs and abilities through the research process.
  2. Set clear and well-scaffolded expectations for undergraduate researchers.
  3. Teach the technical skills, methods, and techniques of conducting research in the discipline.
  4. Balance rigorous expectations with emotional support and appropriate personal interest in students.
  5. Build community among groups of undergraduate researchers and mentors, including graduate students postdoctoral fellows, and any other members of the research team.
  6. Dedicate time as well to one-on-one, hands-on mentoring.
  7. Increase student ownership of the research over time.
  8. Support students’ professional development through networking and explaining norms of the discipline.
  9. Create intentional, laddered opportunities for peers and “near peers” to learn mentoring skills and to bring larger numbers of undergraduates into scholarly opportunities.
  10. Encourage students to share their findings and provide guidance on how to do so effectively in oral and poster presentations and in writing.

Shanahan, J.O., Ackley-Holbrook, E, Hall, E., Stewart, K., & Walkington, H. (2015). Ten salient practices of undergraduate research mentors: A review of the literature. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 1-18. DOI:10.1080/13611267.2015.1126162.