Developing Attitudes and Habits of Mind for Mentorship
by Eric Hall, Sophia Abbot, and Hannah Bellwoar
In fall 2010, Caroline Ketcham and I (Eric Hall) entered into a co-mentoring relationship with an undergraduate research student who was interested in hippotherapy (horse therapy) and the potential impacts that these programs could have on motor/postural changes as well as quality of life. These different interests allowed the two of us to bring our expertise together to work with the student. We decided that instead of one being a primary mentor; we would co-mentor the student. We felt that each of us could learn from the other and help the student through the research process. Before starting, we were clear with the student that we would be equals and one would not be a “primary” mentor; this helped us avoid a power struggle. Both of us entered into this experience knowing that we would be vulnerable at times because of not having particular expertise, but we were excited by the potential to explore a complicated research question in a more holistic manner and provide a better experience for our mentee. This triadic relationship with the student allowed for the student to present and eventually get a publication from her research, but it was also the start of a co-mentoring relationship between Caroline and me that has continued to numerous students for close to a decade.
Even before mentoring happens, there are several attitudes or habits of mind which set the stage for productive and mutually supporting mentoring relationships: curiosity, desire to amplify others’ voices, empathy, compassion, openness, and willingness to change and let go. Echoing these attitudes, Caroline Ketcham, Eric Hall, and Paul Miller (2018) list the following necessary attitudes for co-mentoring: sidelining fear, managing ego, practicing adaptability, approaching the boundaries of expertise, taking intellectual risks, and allowing mutual vulnerability and growth within the mentoring relationship.
Taken together, these attitudes and habits of mind remind us to adopt a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006) in the mentor-mentee relationship. These attitudes stem from the view that the mentoring process is something that can be continually improved. These attitudes also remind us to adopt a growth mindset about our student mentees in order to continue democratizing access to undergraduate research experiences. In other words, mentoring is a developmental process for both mentors and mentees, in which they can grow together (see Abbot, Bellwoar, and Hall, forthcoming, for more on reciprocity in mentorship).
We suggest faculty take steps to develop these habits of mind to prepare for mentorship relationships before employing the salient practices of undergraduate research mentoring (Shanahan, Ackley, Hall, Stewart, and Walkington, 2015). Developing empathy and compassion, for example, will help faculty build cohorts and connect students to scholars with related interests, tasks we suggest under the 4th salient practice: balance rigorous expectations with emotional support and appropriate personal interest in students. Developing a desire to amplify others will help faculty with the 10th salient practice: appropriately support students’ circulation of their findings, through opportunities such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research conference as well as public, disciplinary, and/or interdisciplinary academic audiences.
As Eric and Caroline have found in their own co-mentoring practice, being explicit about power, consciously avoiding ego, approaching mentees and co-mentors with empathy, and naming vulnerability all contribute to successful mentoring experiences. These habits of mind help faculty enact the ten salient practices. Developing attitudes for mentoring is necessarily iterative, especially as different salient practices become more or less salient for mentor-mentee relationships over time. Reflecting on and learning from this process is an essential part of mentoring.
Abbot, Sophia, Hannah Bellwoar, and Eric Hall. Forthcoming. “The importance of reciprocity in mentorship: Benefits and challenges.” Naylor Report on Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies. Parlor Press.
Dweck, Carol. 2006. Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Ketcham, Caroline J., Eric E. Hall, and Paul C. Miller. 2017. “Co-Mentoring Undergraduate Research: Student, Faculty and Institutional Perspectives.” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring 6 (1): 1–13.https://blogs.elon.edu/purm/2017/10/24/co-mentoring-undergraduate-research-student-faculty-and-institutional-perspectives-purm-6-1/
Shanahan, Jenny Olin, Elizabeth Ackley, Eric E. Hall, Kearsley A. Stewart, and Helen Walkington. 2017. “Ten salient practices of undergraduate research mentors: a review of the literature.” Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning 5: 359-376. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2015.1126162.
Eric Hall, Professor of Exercise Science, is the 2018-2019 Senior Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Hall’s Senior CEL Scholar project focuses on undergraduate research mentoring. For more information about the salient practices of undergraduate research please check out our website: https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/salientpractices/
Hannah Bellwoar is Associate Professor of English at Juniata College. Her professional research centers on how people use health-related writings and information, particularly how laypeople use the texts outside of institutional spaces such as hospitals or medical facilities.
Sophia Abbot is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Graduate Apprentice and a student in the Masters of Higher Education program at Elon University.
How to cite this post:
Hall, Eric, Sophia Abbot, and Hannah Bellwoar. 2019, September 10. “Developing Attitudes and Habits of Mind for Mentorship.” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/developing-attiitudes-and-habits-of-mind-for-mentorship