Why Does Mentoring Matter?
Mentoring has long served an essential role in developing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals.1 Learning about the current state of knowledge in one’s discipline, developing expert skill sets, and becoming familiar with disciplinary culture is a process that occurs gradually over time, and aspiring STEMM professionals gather the tacit and disciplinary knowledge needed to work effectively in STEMM through years of education and training (Coplin, 2012).2 Eventually, though, the process of developing the necessary STEMM knowledge, skills, attitudes, identities, and networks requires a transition to practice that traditionally involves mentoring by more expert or senior individuals.
Mentoring experiences can be transformative for the people involved. Many mentees—undergraduate and graduate students for the purposes of this report—form deep, even life-long relationships with their mentors. Mentorship refers to a collaborative learning relationship and working alliance, historically but not always between a more experienced and less experienced individual, based on intentionality, responsiveness, reciprocity, trust, and shared responsibility for the interactions in that relationship and the effectiveness of those interactions.3 Effective mentorship provides aspects of both
1 The committee uses STEMM to indicate the inclusion of medicine but recognizes the significant differences in medical training culture. Mentorship in medicine is discussed in Chapter 4.
2 These skills include the competencies that a 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report addressed regarding what every STEMM graduate student should come away with along with a master’s degree or Ph.D. (NASEM, 2018a).
3 The committee 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
psychosocial and career support, and may include role modeling, advising, sponsorship, and helping mentees develop a supportive network of other mentors and peers. Effective mentorship requires self-reflection, setting expectations, building trust, and regular review. Mentorship, like all relationships, evolves through stages over time, and it provides for the holistic development of scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians.
Despite its important place in the academic culture,4 mentorship rarely receives the focused attention, evaluation, and recognition of other aspects of the professional development process, such as teaching and research. Less than 50 percent of undergraduate faculty who responded to a national survey of faculty work-life balance administered by the Higher Education Research Institute agreed with the statement that their institutions take mentoring into consideration in promotion reviews, and only 7 percent reported significant engagement in training to be a mentor (Stolzenberg et al., 2019).5 Moreover, only 22 percent of science and engineering majors strongly agree that they had a mentor at their undergraduate institution (Gallup, 2018). For all the effort the nation’s academic institutions have spent formalizing the education and training of budding STEMM professionals, they have with a few exceptions largely left mentoring to happen organically or on an ad hoc basis.
There are opportunities to enhance the processes of mentorship—the functions and behaviors that support mentees in learning discipline-specific, professional, and cultural skills and helping them to navigate toward becoming a successful professional in a given STEMM field. Effective mentorship involves skill (i.e., competency-based and intentional preparation by academic institutions of their mentors to be effective) as well as support, incentives, and evaluations of the degree of effective mentoring practices. As with any complex skill, individual mentors and mentees will have different levels of acquired skills, and everyone can improve their skills with instruction, practice, and feedback, including ongoing self-reflective processes that encourage intentional practices.
There are also opportunities to achieve a paradigm shift in the approaches to mentorship, focusing on what makes them work under different conditions, for whom, and in what forms. Because mentorship is complex, culturally influenced, and takes place in particular contexts, competency-based, inclusive practice in mentoring relationships can
partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support. The committee uses the term mentorship to connote that mentoring occurs via a process based on reciprocal activities in mentoring relationships. The details of this definition are discussed in Chapter 2. Intentionality refers to a calculated and coordinated method of engagement to effectively meet the needs of a designated person or population within a given context.
4 Undergraduate teaching faculty report mentoring undergraduates (36.5 percent), graduate students (24.5 percent), and even other faculty (13.3 percent) “to a very large extent” and preparing students for the workplace to be the “high or highest priority” (78.9 percent) (Stolzenberg et al., 2019).
5 Unweighted results of an optional mentoring module from this survey indicate that STEM faculty are more likely to participate in mentoring education (Stolzenberg et al., 2019).
help engage and develop the talent of a broader group of students interested in STEMM careers. Valid measures of mentoring relationships can inform effective mentoring processes and, in conjunction with culturally relevant mentorship, may facilitate the creation of opportunities to enhance student outcomes, experiences, and retention in STEMM. This, in turn, will support inclusive learning experiences that benefit all mentees and their mentors—regardless of their personal characteristics and identities.
BACKGROUND OF THE REPORT
In February 2017, the Board on Higher Education and Workforce convened a national participatory workshop to explore some of the major challenges for ensuring high-quality mentorship for undergraduate and graduate STEMM students (NASEM, 2017a). The challenges the workshop participants identified included the following:
- Many disciplines and areas of study, from organizational and social psychology to discipline-based education research, conduct research on mentorship. Because the knowledge base on mentorship is distributed across disparate disciplines, researchers and practitioners find it difficult to distill, build on, and make use of current knowledge and practice.
- The broad scope of published work on mentorship suffers from a lack of consensus regarding definitions, measures, and theoretical frameworks that could help maximize both the effectiveness of mentorship programs and strategies and drive research on mentorship.
- There is a pressing need for deeper investigation into the role that cultural diversity factors play in STEMM mentoring relationships and evidence-based practices that increase the ability of mentors and mentees to address and effectively navigate cultural diversity issues.
- Mentorship would be strengthened at U.S. institutions of higher education from a systematic compilation, analysis, and presentation of mentorship research and promising and emerging mentorship practices, organized as a centralized and easily accessible resource.
One analogy suggested during the 2017 workshop for mentoring relationships was that of a pilot and copilot pair in flight (see Box 1-1).
In addition to this workshop, over the past decade the National Academies have convened several consensus study committees and conferences that assembled experts across disciplines to examine the research behind mentorship and related issues or that highlighted the importance of mentorship in building and maintaining the STEMM workforce (e.g., NAS-NAE-IOM, 1997, 2007, 2009, 2011a; NASEM, 2017b, 2018a, 2018b; NRC, 2010, 2013, 2015b). In addition, there are several previous and ongoing studies, workshops, and programs conducted by the National Science Foundation, Alfred P.
Sloan Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and National Institutes of Health, among others. Although this prior work contributed to the body of literature on mentorship, these activities were not aimed at compiling, reviewing, analyzing, and presenting research systematically and in a format that can inform and drive practice.
To address that shortcoming and drive dissemination and implementation of evidence-based approaches to mentorship of STEMM students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, the National Academies convened an ad hoc committee, under the auspices of the Board on Higher Education and Workforce, in collaboration with the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and the Board on Science Education, to conduct a study on the science of effective mentorship in STEMM. The Statement of Task is given in Box 1-2.
ABOUT THE WORK
The committee approached the Statement of Task as a guide for an intensive literature review and a series of evidence-gathering activities. The three core questions provided in the Statement of Task helped to focus the committee’s method of engaging this potentially
overwhelming topic. However, the committee did not seek to answer only the questions posed. Over the course of the study, the committee sought to understand the current state of the science of mentorship;6 identify gaps and potential areas for future research on mentorship; and provide mentors, mentees, and mentoring program directors with the evidence-based knowledge and skills necessary to ensure highly productive and sustainable mentoring relationships. The committee focused on the scholarship around elements or behaviors that support effective mentoring relationships themselves and considered outcomes, such as assessments of mentee success, to be one type of measure of effective mentorship.
In accordance with the Statement of Task, the committee limited its focus to mentorship that is occurring in academic undergraduate and graduate STEMM settings. This contextual limitation included all types of institutions (e.g., minority-serving institutions, undergraduate-only institutions, research-intensive institutions, academic medical centers)7 and made no comment on the career intentions of the mentees. Much of the committee’s work focused on research settings, as research training environments share several similarities across many STEM disciplines.8 However, the committee’s findings and recommendations are not constrained to these settings, and care was taken to explore and incorporate material from a range of undergraduate and graduate experiences. In particular, mentorship associated with medicine is addressed in a section of Chapter 4 because of several distinct cultural characteristics of academic medicine.9 The committee also considered the literature on mentorship in STEMM postdoctoral positions, other postsecondary higher education settings, and other sectors, such as industry, but did not include findings or recommendations for these populations or contexts.
The committee interpreted the phrase “individuals traditionally marginalized in STEMM fields” to include women of all racial/ethnic groups and individuals specifically identifying as Black, Latinx, and American Indians/Alaska Natives—collectively referred to as underrepresented (UR) individuals in the report—first-generation (FG) college students, sexual- and gender-minority students, and students with both visible and nonvisible disabilities.10 In particular, Chapter 3 explores the intersection of mentorship and these
6 For this report, science refers to “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of structures and behaviors through observation, experiment, and theory.” This definition was adapted from https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2012/11/we-talk-about-science-a-lot-but-what-is-it.html; accessed August 16, 2019.
7 The committee did not address mentorship in industry or professional practice.
8 While the charge for this committee is to study mentorship in the context of STEMM disciplines, the health sciences and medical fields are often treated separately and some studies refer exclusively to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Therefore, the acronym STEM, instead of STEMM, is used when referencing such situations.
9 These include clinical responsibilities, required “protected time,” the professional focus of medical school, and the centralized nature of the medical school admissions process.
10 Where possible, the report specifies if the UR groups to which the text refers are identified in a referenced study. First-generation college students are students who are the first members of their families to attend college. Sexual- and gender-minority students are students with identities that include sexual orientation identities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and asexual, as well as gender identities such as pre- and posttransition transgender, intersex, and nonbinary.
identities. The committee did not address the delivery of mental health support as part of mentorship.11
The Committee’s Starting Point
The committee made four presumptions based on published findings about advancing effective mentoring in STEMM. First, the committee presumed that all mentorship at its core is a reciprocal and responsive social exchange among a specified group of people with diverse individual attributes (Eby et al., 2007). Accordingly, throughout the report the committee emphasizes the relational nature of mentorship that includes contributions from both mentors and mentees involved in this social exchange. By focusing on the relationship, rather than solely on the mentee or the mentor, the committee calls out a paradigm shift in how both student agency and the burden of mentoring expectations for the participants are viewed. In general, students have a range of talents, strengths, and assets, all of which an effective mentoring relationship can capitalize on to facilitate their successful pursuit of and persistence in STEMM career pathways. Students are not merely passive recipients in mentoring but have potential agency that can contribute to effective mentoring relationships. Moreover, the burden of conforming to the expectations of a mentoring relationship does not fall only on mentees, but is developed through the establishment of a mutually agreed-upon relationship. This topic is explored further in Chapter 2.
Second, the committee presumed that promoting diversity without inclusion is not enough to create a diverse STEMM workforce (Asai, 2019; Puritty et al., 2017).12 While promoting diversity is necessary to increase the numbers of students in STEMM from underrepresented groups, it is equally necessary to equip mentors with the skills to recognize and respond to the identity-based experiences of these students that affect their academic and career development.13 Therefore, the committee emphasized the impor-
11 The National Academies Committee on Supporting the Whole Student: Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Well-Being in STEMM Undergraduate and Graduate Education has been tasked to “conduct a study of the ways in which colleges and universities provide treatment and support for the mental health and well-being of undergraduate and graduate students, with a focus on STEMM students to the extent fields of study are available.” More information is available at https://www8.nationalacademies.org/pa/projectview.aspx?key=51350, last accessed August 7, 2019.
12Diversity refers to the similarities and differences between individuals, accounting for all aspects of one’s personality and individual identity. It implies variety in characteristics like race, gender, or age. Inclusion refers to the efforts used to embrace differences, and it describes how much each person feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued in a given context.
13Identity refers to a composite of who a person is, the way one thinks about oneself, the way one is viewed by the world, and the characteristics that one uses to define oneself, such as gender identification, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, and even one’s profession.
tance of inclusive mentoring practices in all contexts as central to effective mentorship of all students. These topics are explored further in Chapter 3.
Third, the committee presumed that mentoring experiences occur within organizational contexts (Allen et al., 2006), including institutions of higher education, training programs, disciplinary societies, and professional meetings. Therefore, to support its call for increasing effective mentorship, the committee drew on the extensive evidence from organizational behavior research documenting how organizational structures, such as reward and leadership systems (Kerr, 1995; Pinder, 2014), and organizational culture and climate can influence the behaviors that are displayed and valued (Ostroff et al., 2013), as well as influence the way behavioral change occurs. These topics provide a focus for Chapter 7.
Finally, the committee presumed that the understanding of interpersonal interactions that has been developed through social science research can be applied to the development of effective mentoring relationships. Therefore, the committee chose six significant theories that can help frame practical questions and insights of mentorship to explore in depth in Chapter 2 and are referenced throughout the report. The committee does not expect any given reader to become an expert in the highlighted theories, but rather provides them as a primer and reference for consideration when developing a mentoring relationship or program, for inspiration when facing a potentially awkward or new situation in mentorship, or for reflection when engaging in further mentorship competency development.
The Work of the Committee
To inform the committee’s deliberations, it convened 3 public workshops and held 18 listening sessions. These evidence-gathering activities were intended to supplement the intensive literature review. The committee incorporated the output of workshops and the listening sessions throughout the report and in the online guide.
The first workshop, hosted in Washington, D.C., on April 11–12, 2018, explored new knowledge, ideas, and practices in inclusive mentorship excellence and highlighted several questions posed by both practitioners and scholars of mentorship. Based on these discussions, the committee commissioned three literature reviews by outside experts: Mentoring Underrepresented Students in STEMM: A Survey and Discussion (McGee, 2018); Mentoring beyond Hierarchies: Multi-Mentor Systems and Models (Montgomery and Page, 2018); and Landscape of Assessments of Mentoring Relationship Processes in Postsecondary STEMM Contexts: A Synthesis of Validity Evidence from Mentee, Mentor, Institutional/Programmatic Perspectives (Hernandez, 2018).
The second workshop, on October 8, 2018, in Irvine, California, examined the preliminary findings of the three commissioned papers. The authors of the papers were invited to present their work, and the participants engaged the presentations from scholarly as well as lived experience perspectives. The papers were then revised based on the
feedback and questions that were raised. The committee built upon the contributions of these papers throughout the report, in particular, Chapter 3 (McGee, 2018), Chapters 4 and 5 (Montgomery and Page, 2018), and Chapter 6 (Hernandez, 2018). All three papers are also produced in full as supplemental materials online.
The third and final workshop was held at Vanderbilt University on February 5, 2019. Scholars, mentors, and mentees gathered to imagine how to realize an evidence-based, online resource guide on mentorship; clarify the purpose and scope of the online resource; identify users and use cases; and define the desirable functionalities of the final product.
The 18 listening sessions were held over the course of 8 months on university campuses and at a variety of professional society meetings to gain insights on the experiences and concerns about mentorship from current students, faculty members, and administrators.14 Each session was designed to informally solicit input for the report as well as how the online guide might be engaged. For most of the sessions, after a brief overview of the committee’s work, the participants were guided through three activities by one to three members of the committee: (1) they wrote down questions or ideas about theory, research, and practice of mentorship; (2) they discussed their lived mentoring experiences in small groups, focusing on what they had found to be useful for effective mentoring relationships; and (3) they described characteristics, features, and content that might be useful for the online guide. The experiences and suggestions from the participants of sessions informed the committee’s approach to the materials presented, as well as the content of Chapter 7.
Sources of Evidence
The committee’s task was to examine the evidence supporting effective mentoring programs and to identify the characteristics that make for an effective mentoring relationship. However, different kinds of evidence (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, narrative, anecdotal observation) differentially inform how researchers approach their studies and how practitioners (i.e., mentors and mentees) engage in their mentoring relationships.
In many cases, the practice of mentoring occurs without drawing upon theories, empirical studies, and other forms of evaluation to support such practices. Furthermore, isolating the evidence to support the effect of mentoring can prove difficult. For example, many programs incorporate mentoring, but studies of these programs have not been and may not be able to systematically evaluate specific mentoring elements apart from other program activities. There is still an absence of intentionality, both in designing programs for particular mentor and mentee functions in contexts and in evaluating these components specifically (Lunsford, 2016; Pfund, 2016).15
14 More information about the locations and dates of the listening sessions is available in Appendix C.
15 Intervention programs that include mentoring experiences are discussed further in Chapter 4. The assessment of mentorship is discussed further in Chapter 6.
Different researchers and stakeholders vary in their opinions regarding the forms of evidence that are appropriate and informative when understanding mentorship. Some scholars of mentorship adhere only to evidence in the form of data that have been collected and analyzed using validated and reliable measures; other scholars observe that many deeply human and social issues require sharing of personal narratives, lived experiences, and wisdom of practice that does not adhere to the same empirical standards. The committee concluded that any well-rounded study of a complex subject such as effective mentorship would involve a range of perspectives and methods.
To prepare this report, the committee relied primarily on reports in the published literature, from both within and outside of STEMM. In addition, grey literature that focused on programs or experiences, as well as opinion pieces and editorials, were referenced to predominantly help frame issues, though not to inform conclusions or recommendations.16 The use of both opinion pieces and editorials and the grey literature was limited to domains where peer-reviewed resources and publications were not yet available to address emerging practices. For example, the grey literature was consulted in the domain of online peer mentoring network communities for scholars of color.
Integration of Mentoring Scholarship from Other Settings
Although the committee focused on mentorship in academic settings, the committee utilized work drawn from outside of academic contexts as it pertained to broader findings about mentorship in general that apply within and beyond academic settings. The committee considered academic settings as workplaces, and faculty members and researchers engaging in mentoring as employees, recognizing that organizational systems that facilitate or discourage mentoring in workplace settings in general are also applicable to workplaces of higher education or other research settings. In particular, the committee considered scholarship conducted in workplace settings outside of academia pertinent because reward structures and employee motivation in academic workplace settings contain significant parallels to other workplace settings.
A large body of literature exists on workplace mentoring, and relevant scholarship was pulled from disciplines such as organizational behavior and human resource management. Mentorship has been a key component of research on employee development in organizations ever since seminal work in 1983 posited that mentoring relationships between more-senior-level and less-senior-level employees were critical to shaping employee career development, career progression, and well-being (Kram, 1983). This early research on mentoring was included in particular because it has profoundly
16 The Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) defines grey literature “as including trial registries, conference abstracts, books, dissertations, monographs and reports held by … government agencies, academics, business, and industry” (NAS-NAE-IOM, 2011b). Newspapers, magazines, and web pages are also considered to be components of grey literature.
informed the definitions of mentoring functions, as well as virtually all models, since its publication. Since then, an expansive amount of research has contributed to an in-depth understanding of mentoring relationships in organizations, including its antecedents and consequences for both mentors and mentees (Eby et al., 2013). Research on the effects of mentorship on organizational behavior has had a strong focus on the use of quantitatively oriented, oftentimes survey-based research studies, with a particular emphasis on data collection from multiple sources and the use of objective outcome data, such as job performance (Allen et al., 2006).
Studies that have examined mentorship across contexts provide nuanced answers on the generalizability of findings to educational settings (Eby and Allen, 2008; Eby et al., 2013; Mijares et al., 2013). In general, the relationships between mentorship and key behavioral outcomes, such as performance and withdrawal behaviors, hold across sectors, but the magnitude of effect varies by domain, with mentorship in workplace and academic settings frequently being linked to stronger effects than with youth mentoring.
A comprehensive review of all mentoring across all disciplinary contexts, however, is beyond the scope of this report. The committee reviewed mentoring literature only in domains determined to be highly relevant for mentoring in academic settings, but refrained from discipline-specific mentoring work, unless it provided theoretical advances that could be generalized beyond the disciplinary or professional/educational context.
WHY IS MENTORSHIP IMPORTANT?
The Importance of Diversity in STEMM
Over the course of the 20th century, the United States became a global leader in science, technology, and medicine in large part because of the innovations and scientific breakthroughs produced by its highly educated and productive cadre of STEMM professionals. Maintaining that leadership role, and the resulting economic and political benefits that come with it, requires continually renewing and diversifying the talent of the U.S. STEMM enterprise. This is particularly critical today because research suggests that there are real costs to perpetuating a homogenous and White, male-dominated STEMM workforce. For example, car accidents were more likely to be deadly for women because the crash test dummies the manufacturers used in safety trials were designed to protect only an average male body type (Gendered Innovations, 2019; Kahane, 2013), and facial recognition software failed to accurately detect the faces of Black or Asian people (Klare et al., 2012; Phillips et al., 2011; Raji and Buolamwini, 2019). The faulty designs of these technologies might have been avoided if the people researching, designing, and developing the innovations better represented the diversity of the population.
Furthermore, the nation’s STEMM competence, productivity, and scientific progress today relies more than ever on collaborative problem solving (Jones et al., 2008; Plume
and van Weijen, 2014; Wuchty et al., 2007), and teams with diverse experiences and areas of expertise often ask different questions and tend to be more creative and innovative in how they answer those questions (Gibbs, 2014; Leung et al., 2008; Miller and Del Carmen Triana, 2009; Page, 2008; Torchia et al., 2011). More diverse research teams also, on average, produce higher-impact research (Freeman and Huang, 2014a, 2014b) and result in more effective and efficient problem solving (Higgs et al., 2005; Hong and Page, 2004; Woolley et al., 2010). In business and academia, greater diversity has been associated with improved financial performance (Carter and Wagner, 2011; Cook and Glass, 2011), reduced conflict in the workplace (Nielsen and Huse, 2010), promotion of a more equitable work environment (Flabbi et al., 2016; Pichler et al., 2018; Terjesen and Singh, 2008), and lower employee turnover (Kaplan et al., 2011; McKay et al., 2007).
In addition, the number of STEM jobs requiring a college degree or higher—93 percent of which pay better than the national average wage (Fayer et al., 2017)—is projected to grow faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. This growth will in turn create employment opportunities for Americans that must be available to and draw upon talent regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, religion, family educational background, or cultures, many of whom are currently underrepresented in the current STEM workforce.
Even with understanding the benefits of diversity in STEMM, it is challenging to develop and retain the diverse talent required for the workforce. A 2012 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology pointed out that retaining individuals from varied backgrounds in STEM fields in college and graduate school is the least expensive and fastest way to increase the number of STEM professionals needed to ensure that the nation maintains its competitive edge in the global economy (PCAST, 2012). Yet according to a 2013 study from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 48 percent of bachelor’s degree students who entered STEM fields between 2003 and 2009 had left those fields by spring 2009 (Chen and Soldner, 2013). Meanwhile, over 50 percent of those students who do complete a STEM bachelor’s degree switch to jobs or graduate programs outside of STEM (National Science Board, 2018). Studies have also shown that students from UR populations in STEM—including women; students from racial and ethnic groupings such as Blacks/African Americans, Latinx, and American Indians/Alaska natives; FG students; and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds—are more likely to move on to fields outside of STEM than students from well-represented groups (Anderson and Kim, 2006; Griffith, 2010; Hill et al., 2010; Huang et al., 2000; Kokkelenberg and Sinha, 2010; Shaw and Barbuti, 2010).
The Importance of Mentorship in Supporting Diversity
The 2013 National Center for Education Statistics study and others have identified several factors that lead undergraduate and graduate students to leave STEM fields. For example, student motivation, confidence, and beliefs about one’s capacity
to learn STEM subjects and be a STEM professional correlate to the high rate of attrition from STEM fields (Burtner, 2005; Huang et al., 2000; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997; Sithole et al., 2017). In the same manner, a mentee’s experiences or perceptions of the institutional and workplace environments have also been linked to STEM attrition (Eagan et al., 2011).
In addition, individuals from UR groups may experience exclusionary practices in STEMM fields. Individuals in situations in which there are members of multiple social groups—the STEMM classroom or research laboratory, for example—are motivated to increase or maintain how positive and distinct their group is relative to other groups (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). This is especially true when the integrity of a social identity is threatened, such as when the composition of one’s group is becoming more diverse.17 The result can be bias and discrimination, in which group boundaries are distinguished and social groups are rank-ordered and assigned differential social value (Brewer, 1979; Chen and Li, 2009).18
While individuals’ motivations cannot be known, evidence on the outcomes of mentoring indicates that effective mentoring relationships can improve outcomes both for individuals’ career development and for their productivity, while for institutions, effective mentorship can lead to more effective placement of graduates in the job market.19 Lamar Smith of Texas, chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, in the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act of 2018, acknowledged that “[o]utcomes show that mentoring can increase STEM student engagement and the rate of completion of STEM postsecondary degrees” (H.R. 5509, 115th Cong. ). Given the economic benefits of well-trained STEMM professionals entering the workforce at a higher rate, effective mentoring can result in significant benefits to individuals, institutions, and society at large. Conversely, the economic consequences of limited access to effective mentorship may result in a lower number of STEMM professionals and more limited growth opportunities for companies and research organizations in need of STEMM workers.
Mentorship can help with workforce development by increasing access, equity, and inclusion in STEMM. While researchers and pundits alike have proposed many hypotheses to explain the underrepresentation of segments of the U.S. population in STEMM, one that has not been discussed frequently until recently is the lack of effective mentorship for those students. As the authors of a recent commentary stated, “the acknowledgment of the role and agency of the faculty in the professional development of their students is a promising step forward” (Poodry and Asai, 2018). For
17Social identities are based on assigned characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, or gender) or self-determined characteristics (e.g., scientist or student) and are shaped within a social context (Barker, 2012, 2016; Eggerling-Boeck, 2002).
18 Further exploration of identity is in Chapter 3.
19 Discussions about outcomes of mentoring relationships are in Chapter 6.
example, mentored students pursue graduate study more frequently than students without formal mentoring support and are more likely to be retained in STEMM (Campbell and Campbell, 2007). Indeed, effective, high-quality, and sustainable mentoring relationships for individuals across career stages can play a critical role in supporting mentee success in STEMM fields (Aikens et al., 2017; Byars-Winston et al., 2015; Dennehy and Dasgupta, 2017; Haeger and Fresquez, 2016; Lisberg and Woods, 2018; Muller et al., 2012; Pfund, 2016; Smith and George, 2019).
Not all mentoring experiences are positive, however. There are several types of negative mentoring experiences that can also affect the development of the next generation of STEMM professionals.20 Negative mentoring experiences can arise from both good and ill intent, and there are some—such as abusive supervision and harassment—that qualify as detrimental research practices (NASEM, 2018d). These practices have been shown to affect not only the individuals involved, but the greater STEMM enterprise. Inadequate mentoring, advising, and career counseling has been linked to STEM attrition, particularly for UR students (Dupey et al., 2006; Sithole et al., 2017). Further research on the prevalence and impact of negative mentoring experiences may help to elucidate the most effective mechanisms for mitigating negative mentoring experiences.
Supporting Effective Mentorship to Develop Diverse Talent
Institutions can and have been supporting effective mentorship and mitigating negative mentoring experiences by developing cultures of inclusive excellence.21 The American Association of Colleges and Universities describes inclusive excellence as a “guiding principle for access, student success, and high-quality learning.” Creating a culture of inclusive excellence requires academic institutions to identify where student success across demographic groups is unequal, discover which of their educational practices succeed in addressing those inequities, and work intentionally to build off of those practices in a way that sustains institutional change (Williams et al., 2005). Creating a culture of inclusive excellence must also include providing access to effective mentoring for all students.
A growing body of evidence exists about how to create and sustain successful, inclusive mentoring relationships that research identifies as being important for mentors
20 Negative mentoring experiences are discussed further in Chapter 5.
21Inclusive excellence is a philosophical approach to higher education administration and processes that means attending to both the demographic diversity of students/trainees and the need for developing climates and cultures in institutions so that all have a chance to succeed in STEMM. For purposes of this report, this includes a mindset where excellence and inclusion are synonymous, a concern for equity in STEMM, active work to develop mentee’s capacities and assets, and a commitment to their success by faculty and the institution. This definition is close to the original term developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and adopted by its board of directors. More information is available at www.aacu.org/about/statements/2013/diversity; last accessed August 8, 2019.
and mentees. In fact, the literature in both STEMM and non-STEMM postsecondary education and outside of postsecondary education warranted a critical review for the key evidence to guide mentoring initiatives in colleges, universities, and other educational and research settings. While most studies show the small-to-medium effect sizes for any given mentoring intervention,22 the cumulative effect can be transformative for any particular individual or institution. It is clear that mentorship is one of the pillars of effective practice in developing the diverse generation of STEMM professionals currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, especially when paired with other continuous improvement interventions, such as high-quality in-classroom pedagogy, and utilization of evidence-based teaching and training practices (Cohen, 1988, 1995; Plonsky and Oswald, 2014).
AIM OF THE REPORT
Effective mentorship may play a critical role not only in retaining students in STEMM fields, but also in producing a more diverse population of graduates who are ready to take on the role of STEMM professionals in the workplace and feel comfortable and accepted in those roles. From the committee’s evidence-gathering activities, it is clear that many in the STEMM community believe that mentorship is an expected, beneficial, and necessary function of the academic environment. At the same time, it appears that only a subset of U.S. academic institutions have evidence-based programs in place to foster effective mentoring relationships or recognize and reward good mentorship practices. And the conversations with students at the committee’s listening sessions for this report reinforced the idea that poor or negative mentorship can occur across STEMM disciplines.23
This report is based on a systematic compilation and analysis of current literature on mentorship in postsecondary STEMM contexts and is intended to provide a rigorous review of the relevant scholarship. As such, the report engages a wide breadth of topics, each of which contributes to the science of mentorship. Therefore, while each chapter in this report is written to stand in isolation, the topics of every chapter are highly related to one another and build together toward the recommendations. To better serve as a practical resource guide to enable institutions, departments, programs, and individual mentors and mentees to create and support viable, sustainable, and effective mentorship systems, the committee has created an online guide based on the content of this report. This online guide seeks to facilitate the translation of mentoring scholarship and knowledge into practice. The online guide is available at www.nationalacademies.org/MentorshipinSTEMM.
22Effect size is a statistical concept that measures the strength of the relationship between two outcomes.
23 Negative mentoring experiences and their possible impacts on mentees are explored in Chapter 5.
Recommendations in this report are directed at many of the participants in the STEMM mentorship ecosystem, including institutional leadership (e.g., presidents, provosts, deans), department chairs, program leaders (e.g., research, training, and graduate program directors), mentors (all faculty members, staff, and others who have extensive contact with graduate and undergraduate students), mentees (undergraduate and graduate students participating in mentoring programs and other mentoring relationships), and professional associations. The report acknowledges the multiple roles that many of these participants play. For example, new faculty can be both mentors and beneficiaries of mentorship; research shows that mentors themselves can benefit from their mentorship activities and that there are approaches to support these activities.24 The committee acknowledges that there is limited knowledge about some topics in mentorship (e.g., effectiveness of formal versus informal mentorship),25 particularly about how research results, theories, or approaches may transfer to design and implementation of mentoring efforts. The recommendations in this report call for actions from various stakeholders that can increase understanding of the link between theory, research, and practice in mentorship.
The recommendations offered in this report are intended to help the nation’s institutions of higher education and other critical research training environments better meet the mentorship needs of both students and faculty to the benefit of the entire U.S. STEMM enterprise and the institutions engaged in STEMM education.26 While many of the concepts discussed are highlighted because of specific influences on UR populations, effective mentorship practices are applicable to and will benefit the broader STEMM community. In addition, the committee identified key gaps in the available scholarship and provided recommendations on how to address those gaps.
STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT
Following this chapter, the remainder of the report lays out the committee’s analysis of the current state of understanding of mentorship in U.S. academic STEMM programs, highlights evidence-based practices that foster effective mentorship, and identifies steps that stakeholders can take to ensure all students benefit from effective mentorship with particular attention to the role mentorship can play in increasing retention of UR students in STEMM fields. It also examines the state of research on mentorship and identifies gaps in that research. Chapter 2 discusses the definition and aspects of mentorship in addition to providing theoretical frameworks for understanding mentorship. Chapter 3
24 Various approaches to or structure of mentorship are discussed in Chapter 4; potential benefits and implicit rewards for mentors are discussed in Chapter 7.
25 Formal and informal mentorship, as well as the limitations of the scholarship in this area, is discussed in Chapter 4.
26 Other research training environments would include the National Institutes of Health, national laboratories, industry, and free-standing research centers.
focuses on mentorship of specific student populations, and the interplay among mentorship, identity, and inclusion. Chapter 4 describes approaches to mentorship, mentorship in medicine, and programs that feature mentoring. Chapter 5 describes effective and negative mentorship behavior, tools for developing and optimizing mentorship, and competency development, while Chapter 6 discusses assessment of mentorship practices and outcomes. Chapter 7 presents strategies that various stakeholders at different levels in institutions can implement to support highly effective mentorship, in part informed by the committee’s listening session activities. The committee’s recommendations are listed in Chapter 8 and are organized by stakeholder to clarify how various groups should foster effective mentorship activities for all STEMM students.
In addition to the core content, there are four appendixes that supplement this report. Appendix A is a glossary of terms used throughout the report. Appendix B offers a list of programs that feature mentoring experiences that were not included in Chapter 4. Appendix C provides the agendas and participant lists for the three public workshops and the dates and locations for the listening sessions. Appendix D presents the biographies of the committee members and staff.