This week, TIGERS are going to try and tweet a bit about supervision and mentoring of PhD students. The TIGERS den includes PhD students and supervisors and also lots of people who have experienced mentoring and being a mentee.
The suggestion of tweeting about supervision and mentoring led to some conversation in the TIGERS den about the difference between those two things. @CandiceMajewski wrote about mentoring for National Mentoring Day:
She linked to some useful resources including:  - from where we can get some useful definitions…
“Mentoring is a developmental relationship; help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.”
“A mentor is someone who provides support and helps the mentee to review their situation through a process of reflection, questions, signposting, challenge, advice and feedback.”
“A mentor can help assess strengths and weaknesses, develop new skills and help in planning and implementing short and long term goals.”
In a way, this sounds like what a PhD supervisor should do. However, the PhD supervisor has other jobs as well, some of which may clash with the mentoring role. Mentoring should be driven by the mentee's goals, but a PhD supervisor may need to set goals for the supervisee.
The PhD supervisor also needs to make sure that the student meets the various requirements the University may set - from attendance at taught courses, to transferable skills activities, to writing a final thesis which is up to scratch and will satisfy the examiners.
And the PhD supervisor will also need to make sure that a broader research group functions and that overall project objectives are met, which may sometimes clash with the student’s needs or ambitions.
So, even when PhD supervisors might like to act as mentors, it can be worthwhile for students to have other sources of mentoring, with a bit more distance from the student’s research project.
Having a mentor outside the research group also gives the students exposure to a broader range of working practices and possibly also the opportunity to be mentored by someone with a better understanding of their personal situation.
For example, women students may find it helpful to have a woman mentor outside their research group. (Yes - we know about the recent furore about the Nature Comms paper. The paper’s a load of rubbish, and not worth spending more characters on).
So, #TellTheTiger - does your institution organise opportunities for students to develop mentoring relationships with someone other than their supervisor? Is this helpful? Should this be done formally or does it happen informally?
You can follow @tigerinstemm.
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