Training Ph.D. Students to Successfully Navigate Research Mentoring Relationships

To the Editor:

The experience that Maria LaMonaca Wisdom described in her recent article about developing a course to train graduate students in mentoring (“Why Don’t We Teach Ph.Ds to Be Mentors?,” The Chronicle, September 21) addresses issues raised in the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) 2018 consensus study Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century and aligns with the call for mentorship education in a 2019 NASEM report, The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. The 2019 report includes many references, resources, and an online guide to support those interested in developing and implementing mentorship education to enhance the diversity and strength of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) research workforce.

The 2019 NASEM report defines mentorship as “a professional, working alliance in which individuals work together over time to support the personal and professional growth, development, and success of the relational partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support.” As such, mentorship education includes training that develops the skills and knowledge of both mentors and mentees to build and maintain effective research mentoring relationships. One of the resources highlighted in the NASEM report, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), offers evidence-based curricula and training workshops for both mentors, Entering Mentoring and undergraduate and graduate mentees, Entering Research. A Mentoring Up curriculum for postdoctoral scholars and junior faculty members that integrates evidence-based elements of the Entering Research and Entering Mentoring curricula is also available.

We would characterize LaMonaca Wisdom’s course as mentee training, rather than mentor training, with a focus on navigating mentoring relationships as a mentee. Learning to effectively engage with research mentors is central to the seven areas of trainee development articulated in the Entering Research conceptual framework, which is grounded in the literature on undergraduate and graduate research trainee development and has been refined by scholar practitioners who lead research training programs for real world application. The Entering Research curriculum includes over 95 active learning activities for undergraduate and graduate researchers that are based on this framework and can be downloaded for free from the CIMER website. Beyond free downloads, CIMER offers the Entering Research Curriculum Development Institute and Facilitator Training workshop for research course and training program directors. The workshop uses a Backward Design approach to build custom research training curricula like the one LaMonaca Wisdom used in her course.

In addition to the Entering Research curriculum and resources, CIMER offers parallel resources to support mentor training with Entering Mentoringconsulting services for campuses interested in implementing mentorship education, and training evaluation services. Additional resources for mentees include resources posted on the Council of Graduate School website including Great Mentoring in Graduate School: A quick start guide for protégés.

We fully support LaMonaca Wisdom’s call for mentorship education and encourage programs to build upon the foundation of evidence-based work currently available to support mentorship practices that advance inclusive, high quality graduate education. Integrating mentorship education for graduate students and research mentors into training programs will address many of the challenging issues raised in the 2018 NASEM consensus study and will go a long way to improve the training climate.



Janet L. Branchaw
Associate Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Education and Director of WISCIENCE

Faculty Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Christine Pfund
Senior Scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Department of Medicine
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Melissa McDaniels
Associate Executive Director and a Scientist at the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research
University of Wisconsin at Madison

Sherilynn Black
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Medical Education in the School of Medicine
Duke University

This letter to the editor was originally posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education. Read the original post.