ISEE Mentor Program

Over a decade of experience developing, researching, and refining professional development and workforce development programs has been integrated into the ISEE Mentor Program. In STEM, mentoring is widely regarded as a key process for bringing new people into the field, and often involves an apprentice (student) completing a research or technical project with guidance from a mentor (a professional in the field). Through our research findings, we have devel­oped a unique focus on “explanation” and “STEM identity”, as well as a nuanced understanding of skills needed in the workforce. We have drawn from our resources to develop mentoring tools (e.g., frameworks, skill inventories). 

Participants in the 2017 ISEE/Akamai Mentor Workshop design student projects, and develop a personalized menu of resources and considerations for productively engaging their students in project work. Our training provides specific strategies for the day-to-day aspects of mentoring a student’s work on a project and supporting their development of a positive STEM identity.  The program addresses three important areas of productive project development:

  • Project Design: Development of a site-specific plan for an intern project. Planning process includes clarifying goals, outlining key milestones, noting points of student ownership, and anticipating the kind of evidence that students may use in explaining findings

  • Mentoring Moves: Review and discussion of mentoring vignettes. Participants consider ways in which mentors make students’ thinking visible (to assess their understand­ing), how they nudge students in productive directions, how and when they let students struggle and even fail, etc., through verbal and non-verbal interaction.

  • Developing STEM Identity & Belonging: Discussion of ways in which a mentor can foster a positive STEM identity, in ways that align with how the student sees him/herself and who he/she wants to become; strategies for being explicit about and teaching workplace norms; integrating students into the workplace and STEM community.

Participants leave with a mentoring plan that includes: 1) a project design; 2) on-the-fly moves they plan to employ; and 3) specific strategies to create a supportive environment. They will then put their plan into practice as they mentor an intern. As mentors design projects for students, emphasis is placed on outlining projects that are productive and authentic. In other words, it is important that a project educates and engages the student while also addressing an authentic need in the observatory and/or research environment.

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