July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Learning is a social process. For many students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at two-year institutions learning occurs in a spectator role where the learner remains on the periphery, isolated from social connection within courses. This condition can be exacerbated for resource-constrained students who may be forced to choose obligations necessary for sustaining their student status over other options. Lack of connection to others can have lasting impacts on personal association with a subject matter, stunting the development of a student’s STEM identity. Given that identity is a strong predictor of who will or will not succeed in STEM and that mentorship plays a key role in identity formation, educators have an opportunity to contribute to the socialization and integration of students as core members of the STEM community through intentional mentorship.
Communities of Practice (CoP) have been used to authentically engage students in learning-focused groups, enhancing a student’s ability to move from a passive observer to a core community member through legitimate participation. Students that participate in CoP are more likely to persist to the following academic year than their peers because learning communities establish a safe environment to learn, encourages students to take ownership of their learning, and creates a sense of belonging to a larger community elements which validate and support a students’ multiple identities. This is particularly important as research on underrepresented populations underscores the important role that the composite identities of race, ethnicity, gender, income, and first-generation status play in retention and success in STEM. Faculty at two-year institutions are not inherently trained as mentors, however.
The Engineering Scholars Program (ESP), funded by an NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM), is a CoP designed to enhance the community experience of two-year community college students preparing to transfer to a four-year university. The ESP took an unstructured approach to mentoring during Year 1, allowing individual mentors to determine and apply their own mentoring strategies. Research and evaluation results indicated that faculty mentorship during Year 1 increased students’ belonging, encouraged them to persist, helped them manage personal and academic challenges, and empowered students to describe themselves as contributors to the STEM disciplines. Students also reported that mentoring could be improved through additional mentorship structure, increased meeting frequency, and strategic mentorship pairing. When the ESP sought to pivot towards a more formal mentorship approach for Year 2, ready-made materials for a mentorship training program were not available to meet the unique needs of two-year community college faculty mentors whom bring diverse experiences of their own and may not have the same disciplinary background as the students they are mentoring. This paper presents the development and implementation of the ESP’s guided mentorship strategy. We summarize program components designed for two-year community college faculty members and present faculty and peer mentorship impacts as students prepare to transfer to a four-year university and complete their engineering degree.
Dancz, C. L. A., & Adams, E. A., & Haden, C., & Ahn, Y., & Willis, K., & Craig, D. (2021, July), Implementation of a Guided Mentorship Program in a STEM Community of Practice at a Two-Year College Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37296
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