Friday, July 26, 2013

Mentoring New Faculty in the Chemical Sciences, Part II (#ResearchCorp #ACS)

The funny thing about the mentoring of faculty is that it wasn't nearly so much on the radar screen in the recent past. It certainly wasn't formalized like it is today with senior faculty routinely being assigned to mentor junior faculty. The rationale behind this change involves several threads, but all of them have in common the fact that mentoring plays a huge role in increasing success. Given that the costs of starting a new chemistry professor are really high, we simply can't afford to leave things to chance. Meanwhile, assistant professors—and indeed all professors—these days have to do many jobs beyond the science that they were trained to do. This is where mentoring helps. For example, in the long list of tasks that I listed in Part I, you may have noticed that the teaching role was barely mentioned. It's a critical component of our job, but it tends to be given little attention in the struggle to attain tenure. But whether you teach badly or well, the mount it takes is about the same. So why not teach well?

The New Faculty Workshop being held this week focuses on all of the threads confronting starting Assistant Professors. We expose the junior faculty to the use of evidence-based educational techniques in the classroom. That is, we make it easy for starting faculty to use techniques that have been seen to be effective at engaging students in learning. We also go over many of the issues that they are confronting on the research side so as to increase their chances of success. Ultimately it's about integrating their research and education activities. Indeed, we deliver the content—such as how to run a research lab—using active learning techniques rather than through sage-at-the-stage lectures. A new faculty member may be have been lucky so far, but through this fabulous mentoring workshop we're trying to leave chance behind!

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