Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Epic Fail – An Attempt to Observe Mentoring Relationships Within Short-term, Lab-based Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Programs

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 17: Student Cognitive Development

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Eunsil Lee Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Eunsil Lee is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education Systems and Design program at Arizona State University (ASU) in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, The Polytechnic School. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in Clothing and Textiles from Yonsei University (South Korea) with the concentration area of Nanomaterials and Biomaterials in Textiles. She began her Ph.D. study in Textile Engineering but shifted her path toward Engineering Education a year later. Her research interests currently focuses on engineering doctoral students in underserved populations such as women and international students.

visit author page


Adam R. Carberry Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Adam Carberry is an associate professor at Arizona State University in the Fulton Schools of Engineering Polytechnic School. He earned a B.S. in Materials Science Engineering from Alfred University, and received his M.S. and Ph.D., both from Tufts University, in Chemistry and Engineering Education respectively. His research investigates the development of new classroom innovations, assessment techniques, and identifying new ways to empirically understand how engineering students and educators learn. Prior to joining ASU he was a graduate student research assistant at the Tufts’ Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.

visit author page

Download Paper |


When Jane Goodall, an English anthropologist, went to Tanzania to venture into the little-known world of chimpanzees in their wild state, a layer of understandings that was unobtainable through observations in zoos was gained. Our study leverages this ethnographic approach by similarly exploring the little-known world of short-term, lab-based mentoring relationships by engaging in mentor-mentee daily lab experiences. Mentoring relationships established as part of NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERC) education programs have drawn recent attention due impart to the potential impacts for both mentors and mentees. Little is currently known about mentoring relationships in such short-term, lab-based settings like those created through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer program. These programs play an essential role in the educational efforts associated with ERCs. Most research focusing on mentors and mentees has used self-reported data reporting on the quality of the established mentoring relationship. Such data has typically been obtained as part of a larger program assessment survey at the end of program implementation. Observation of mentoring relationships by a third party during the program has largely not been undertaken. The closest effort similar to such an effort was an attempt to theorize the relationship over time using data collected from leadership and organizational studies. This work-in-progress fills an important gap in the literature by introducing our research team’s first attempt and epic failure to investigate mentoring relationships in a short-term, lab-based setting over time. The focus of this paper examines the development and use of a lab-based observation protocol. The research design chosen to understand mentoring relationships in their real-life environments was a qualitative ethnographic approach using longitudinal observation. An observation protocol was developed based on the ‘Short-term, Lab-based Engineering Mentoring Guide (Chandler & Larson, 2017). Initial efforts attempted to observe the ‘direction’ and ‘support’ components of mentoring relationships via the interactions and/or collaborative works among mentors and mentees. Our data sources include 9 mentoring pairs; 12 mentors and 9 mentees, from two different REU programs associated with two ERCs at a large, public, southwestern United States university. Each mentoring pair was observed roughly 30 minutes per week throughout their program participations (8-10 weeks). Our first attempt reported in this work-in-progress encountered an epic fail with several identified shortcomings revealed by the initial observation protocol: 1) difficulties in capturing two hypothesized components – direction and support – in real time, 2) many interactions occurring outside of the lab space, and 3) additional influencers. These emerging findings enabled the research team to learn the needs of characterizing the nature of mentoring relationships in short-term, lab-based experiences, for determining the appropriateness of observing ‘direction’ and ‘support’ as indicators. A suggested new model for investigating mentoring relationships based on our first failed attempt will be shared in the full paper.

Lee, E., & Carberry, A. R. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Epic Fail – An Attempt to Observe Mentoring Relationships Within Short-term, Lab-based Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Programs Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33613

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015