Teaching and Mentoring
Few faculty members begin their careers with formal instruction in how to teach, and yet we are expected to do so proficiently and efficiently. Fortunately there are both formal and informal resources at Boston University to help you become a better teacher.
The Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching (CEIT)
The CEIT is a center without walls at Boston University that provides a wide variety of services for faculty members. Here are just a few of the topics addressed at the CEIT website:
- how to prepare a syllabus
- engaging students in large classes, team learning, grading tips
- print and online resources for teaching
- internal travel grants for conferences on teaching and course development grants
- course evaluation at BU and how to effectively document your teaching activities
- innovative ways to use technology in your teaching including student response systems and on-line teaching
- confidential peer advising is available to help improve your teaching through the CEIT Consultations Program
Office of Medical Education (OME)
The Office of Medical Education (OME) offers many faculty development resources for faculty and staff who teach in the medical school, including workshops, help with technology in the classroom, self-paced tutorials, links to medical education grants, information on how to develop a portfolio of teaching activities and suggestions about how to promote yourself as an educator. You can learn more about what is available on the OME Faculty Development website.
Mentoring has two components for most faculty members: the support and guidance we receive from mentors, and the support we are expected to provide to others. Faculty members can benefit from mentoring at any stage of a career, but new faculty have special challenges. The Provost has asked each Dean to develop a mentoring plan for the junior faculty in his or her school. In some schools new faculty members are assigned one or more specific mentors, in other schools the process is less formal. Likewise, the expectations for the mentoring relationship are formalized in some schools but not in others. Our goal is to make sure that all faculty, but especially junior faculty, receive the support that they need to succeed. If you have a question at any time about mentoring for yourself or your colleagues, please contact the APFD.
How to get the mentoring you need:
In addition to an “official” mentor assigned to you in your school and college, consider a panel of mentors. Many people find that having multiple mentors is helpful. Here are some examples of the kinds of people who you might want to include on your panel of mentors.
- a more experienced faculty member in your department – this is usually the first kind of mentor you consider and the type who may be assigned to you. This person should take a proactive interest in your professional success. He or she can help you understand whether you are meeting the expectations of your department and school. If your experience with your assigned mentor is ineffective, please seek help. You can always contact the APFD for a confidential discussion completely outside your school or college.
- senior colleagues outside your department, school or institution – it can be very helpful to have the advice and support of those who know your field but are outside your immediate environment. The mentor you have within your own department may be able to help you identify others who can serve as an outside sounding board for you. Sometimes a former advisor or supervisor can play this role.
- peers – no one has more empathy for your situation than another in the same situation. Many faculty maintain ties to peer mentors throughout the academic lifespan. At a large school like Boston University it can be especially instructive to develop relationships with peers in different schools and colleges. You may learn that your colleagues have solved a problem that you have in a way you may not have considered.
- organizations at Boston University – there are a variety of local organizations that contribute to mentoring through formal programs, and informal contacts and networks.
- Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) for faculty, and a related group for graduate students, GWISE sponsor activities that are open to both women and men on the CRC.
- Women in Networks (WIN) is a program for faculty in science and engineering that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop networking activities and investigate the impact of networks on the professional growth of female faculty members.
- BUMC: The Department of Medicine faculty development website describes many resources that are helpful for medical campus faculty, not just those in the DOM. In addition, there is a BUMC Mentoring Task Force currently working on recommendations and resources for mentoring for all Medical Campus faculty.
- external organizations – many professional organizations have mentoring networks, or sponsor professional development activities at national meetings. For example, medical school faculty should investigate the AAMC website which sponsors groups with special interests such as medical education, clinical practice and graduate education. There are also electronic mentoring organizations such as MentorNet that provide one-on-one electronic support by pairing junior faculty members with experienced mentors in academia and industry.
How to be a better mentor:
Effective mentoring is a skill that needs to be developed just like becoming an effective teacher or scholar. Your activities as a mentor will vary, depending on the person you are working with. Here are some recommendations for a productive mentoring relationship.
- leave your own ego out of the equation – your job as a mentor is to provide advice, support, information, encouragment, and constructive feedback, all focused on the person you are mentoring, not on your own needs.
- commit time to the effort – we are all busy and it is very easy to postpone a meeting. However the value of a mentoring relationship builds over time. Consider scheduling regular meetings with the person you are mentoring and try to protect that time. Sometimes you will need to be proactive in making sure the meeting happens since the junior faculty member may be reluctant to “bother you.” You should expect that your Chair or Dean will ask the junior faculty member periodically whether the two of you have been meeting, so don’t put it off.
- maintain confidences – successful mentoring is a relationship based on trust. The person you are mentoring will not be able to ask difficult questions or reveal concerns unless they are sure that they will not be harmed for doing so at a later time.
- be very careful when giving policy or process advice – if you have any doubts about a process or policy ask for clarification before you provide advice to a junior faculty member. Sometimes this advice can have career-altering consequences, and the person you are mentoring is depending on you to “get it right.” Policies change over time too, so when in doubt consult the administrative staff in your department or Dean’s office or the Provost’s office. Each school or college has a faculty actions administrator you can consult who is well-informed regarding current processes for appointment, re-appointment, promotion, leaves and so forth.
- be honest and constructive – feedback is only useful when it is honest, but think about how to deliver constructive advice. How would you like to have that information conveyed to you, if you were the one receiving it instead of giving it? If you have questions about how to give feedback, or you need help giving feedback that makes you uncomfortable please ask others for advice before doing it.
- get help when you need it – no mentor knows the answer to every question or can respond to every situation. Turn to more senior colleagues for help, consult professionals within the University as needed, and if you are not sure who can provide the help you need, please consult the APFD. She can find resources for you.
- when it’s not working – not every mentoring match will be the best. There is no penalty in going to the person who made the match (such as your Chair or Dean) and discussing whether you might be better off with a different pairing. A “no fault” reassignment can be made if necessary.