Title V Mentoring at LSC-North HarrisIn early March, 2017, ten faculty members initiated the fledgling Title V Mentoring Program, which matches a more experienced (full-time) professor with a newer professor (adjunct) to observe each other’s teaching and to meet afterwards and discuss insights/ideas for change. Participation is compensated by stipend, and we are hoping the program will expand with more participants for the fall semester.
Mentors and mentees began with an orientation and goal setting session to get an overview of the program’s structure. Then in the weeks following, the five sets of mentors and mentees collectively spent approximately 100 hours on activities—some, due to time/schedule restrictions, were limited to the basic classroom observation/feedback, but others expanded to participation in campus professional development sessions and other activities. In early May, during the final week of class, the program wrapped up with a meeting to discuss the benefits and future ramifications for the classroom.
Participants completed written reflections, activity reports and an evaluation survey. These materials will be used to improve the program beginning in Fall 2017, when more faculty will be invited to become mentors or mentees. In addition, a Teaching Squares program will expand the mentoring program structure. Participants may continue with the same partner (or someone else), but even if they do not continue to be active, they will still report back one final time, in November, regarding the results of the new strategies they identified this spring, and will have applied by that time.
Mentors provided insightful observations of the program:
- “The experiences force me to look more at each class I teach. By explaining what I do in class, and why, I am able to understand a great deal more.”
- “The greatest gift is the opportunity to connect with another faculty member in a more engaged way—which directly relates to the classroom where we establish connections with students and assist in their success.”
- “I need to give students more time to discuss a question amongst themselves.”
- [After a class observation] “Prof. --- chatted with students as they entered the room, clearly understanding each student’s situation. He appealed to several different learning styles as he moved students into carefully conceived groups designed to strengthen their skills in English…. He showed a willingness to listen to the students and give them time to express themselves.”
- “PowerPoint usage could be improved, and fewer repetitions of the same idea could save time—I can work with my mentee on that.”
Mentees also gained important insights and skills:
- “My mentor presented an example of simplicity and caring ways…. I identify with her so much. I also loved her example of foresight and planning. She is always one step ahead.”
- “I have learned new ways I can motivate students to succeed in their academic pursuits.”
- “I will spend more time adapting exercises to meet different needs and subjects.”
- “This experience offers an opportunity to change our academic culture. I now realize the ways the college could better support adjunct faculty, and understand why my mentor wishes to establish a stronger support system.”
- “My goals for next semester will include more clinical case studies for community service—I also will start using more technology for assessment and for games to help students with retention of vocabulary and mechanisms.”
Some mentoring partners engaged in a vigorous program of special activities beyond classroom observations of each other’s teaching. Together, one mentor and mentee attended a professional development session presented by a faculty excellence award recipient, and discussed the teaching techniques covered. Another pair visited a third professor’s class together and afterwards met to discuss her techniques which sparked a discussion of “scaffolding” vs. “coddling.” On other occasions, the two met with an advisor who spoke about how students were placed into classes and with the campus online instructional designer who explained the use of audio/video techniques and the incorporation of links into D2L (BrightSpace). And some relationships did not end with the semester—one mentor/mentee pair will meet this summer in order for the mentor to guide the mentee in “a major overhaul of my syllabus.”
The stated goal of the Title V project (in all its campus-wide programs) is to “Increase the persistence, completion and transfer rates of Hispanic and underserved students.” If we are going to help students become more aware of resources and opportunities leading to success and improved persistence, we are going to need to learn from each other and share best practices. All faculty members, full-time or adjunct, would benefit from these experiences—so please contact me (Michael McFarland, Adjunct Center Faculty Fellow) to apply for the Title V Mentoring Program as the fall semester begins. Your concepts of teaching and learning will be enhanced and enlarged!
By Michael McFarland (English Professor, LSC-North Harris)