On 1 November 2019, Associate Professor Suzaina Bte Abdul Kadir (LKYSPP Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, Teaching Academy Fellow) welcomed attendees to the inaugural teaching-related discussion for members of NUS Bukit Timah Campus Faculty of Law and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
As both faculties engage practitioners who need to be brought up to speed on what could happen in the classroom, the NUS Teaching Academy BTC Cluster leads, herself and Eleanor, had convened the discussion to look into mentoring-in-teaching at BTC in a more structured manner.
This was also part of NUS Teaching Academy’s Master Mentorship scheme to provide teaching mentoring support for Faculties and Schools by addressing discipline-specific teaching needs and advocating a contextualized teaching excellence culture.
- Associate Professor Wu Alfred Muluan (LKYSPP, Asst Dean of Academic Affairs)
- Associate Professor Eleanor Wong Siew Yin (Law, Vice-Dean of Student Life & Global Relations, Director of Legal Skills Programme, Teaching Academy Fellow)
- Sheridan Fellow Benny Tan Zhi Peng (Law, Course Director of Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice)
- Asst Professor Selina Ho (LKYSPP, Program Chair of Master in International Affairs)
- Associate Professor Suzaina Bte Abdul Kadir (LKYSPP Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, Teaching Academy Fellow)
Sharing by Speakers
Associate Professor Wu Alfred Muluan (LKYSPP)
Alfred shared on the range of mentoring-in-teaching practices in some Hong Kong universities (that he had knowledge of. His opinion was that when he was a junior faculty member, he benefited a lot from mentorship – senior members helped him thrive.
Areas he discussed included
- Some characteristics of formal structured mentoring
- Some characteristics of informal/unstructured mentoring
- Some forms of mentorship
- Coverage of mentees
- Common mentoring challenges & actions
- Understandings about mentoring
- An example of formalized governmental support/reward for mentoring-in-teaching
Alfred also touched on other issues such as the importance of the mentor-mentee relationship, the characteristics of effective mentorship relationships, desirable mentor attributes etc.
Associate Professor Eleanor Wong & Sheridan Fellow Benny Tan (LAW)
Eleanor pointed out that although traditional hierarchical models of mentorship were valuable and often led to job satisfaction, there were some difficulties with the model, one of which was that not every senior faculty member was a competent &/or willing mentor. Furthermore, with the presumption of power & authority, hierarchical mentoring relationships could be seen as more transmission of knowledge from mentor to mentee rather than as a social transformative process of learning from each other.
However, more recent scholarship had suggested different mentorship models, such as mentorship circles, networks or constellation mentoring, and ways to structure them, sharing the idea that young faculty benefit from access to a larger group of seniors. In addition, as these networks/circles include other junior members, peer learning would also be possible.
Hence, she and Benny discussed the informal/organic ways in which mentorship could grow, by sharing about the informal organic mentorship circle that grew in the legal skills teaching group. They shared on the following:
- An example of an organic mentorship circle
- Characteristics of this learning group
- Some advantages of informal mentor-mentee relationships
Suzaina also shared that whenco-teaching worked particularly well, it was partly because an informal mentor-mentee relationship had developed within the co-teaching dynamic, and more junior faculty was learning organically from an experienced instructor.
Eleanor suggested that faculty could become sensitive to organic mentor clusters, and that management could explore ways to tap on such organic clusters better. Suzaina pointed out that the course itself established structure that could be worked with too.
To induct new faculty, some of whom were not from academic backgrounds, the course itself could be a learning platform, particularly for things not immediately obvious, e.g. setting assignments, marking, student consultation, tutorials etc. Cheng Suang pointed out that adjunct faculty, although often coming from senior positions and possessed of much industrial experience, did not always know how to teach and engage students in ways that students preferred.
Assistant Professor Selina Ho (LKYSPP)
Selina candidly shared the different sources she tapped on for informal learning as a faculty member relatively new to teaching, after a former career in another industry.
- Senior colleagues
- Students as a source for informal learning:
All of whom variously shared and discussed different source materials, different approaches, practical advice etc., and allowed observation for the learning of teaching skills.
Participants then discussed
- The value of formal vs informal mentorship.
- Some potential challenges in mentoring
- Fostering a culture that values teaching
- Learning Communities