Submitted by Barbara Lentz
Wake Forest University School of Law
Vicki Baker and Kimberly Griffin, Beyond Mentoring and Advising: Toward Understanding the Role of Faculty “developers” in Student Success, 14:6 About Campus 2 (Jan-Feb 2010) [Read full text at Selected Works site for Griffin]
With ABA standards for outcomes and assessments coupled with demands for practice-ready lawyers, law faculty are needed more than ever to identify and create opportunities for our students to develop critical thinking, skills, and networks to succeed. Authors Baker and Griffin provide a framework for three types of faculty roles: advising, mentoring and developing students. Acknowledging the lack of incentives for engaging in student development when the research agenda is prioritized, the authors provide a vocabulary, clear framework and concise suggestions to encourage faculty to align their time, interests and abilities in choosing the type of interactions most likely to confer greater benefits with fewer frustrations.
The essay begins by reviewing demographic shifts of student enrollment in higher education including increasing diversity, shift to parity or majority female enrollment, rise in first generation students as well as fiscal changes that have led students “to expect a level of service that matches their investment” including lightening fast responses to questions and requests for academic and social support. At the same time, faculty members’ workplaces may be less encouraging of interaction with students by privileging “research productivity over student interaction” in addition to demands for responses from accrediting agencies. Pressures on faculty arise both in and outside the classroom to meet student expectations for faculty contact. The authors urge faculty to be realistic about their strengths, weaknesses and time commitments to foster appropriate relationships for student development and learning.
The three roles for faculty interaction include the advisor, the mentor, and a new role – the developer. The authors distinguish these three roles by the time invested and the outcome desired. First, the traditional faculty advisor helps students navigate rules and degree requirements by providing reliable information so students can make good choices in meeting program milestones. Students should not expect that every academic advisor will also serve as a mentor. Mentoring is more time intensive than advising as it requires a series of ongoing interactions rooted in longer-term care about a student’s personal and professional development. A mentor provides support beyond program requirements by offering honest feedback as a sounding board, helping the mentee connect interests with a career and focusing mostly in the moment. The developer, by contrast, is focused on future outcomes and helps a student set and achieve goals. The developer might ask the student “what experiences do we need to find or create to help you build competencies you will need in order to be successful?” A developer relationship is collaborative in knowledge development and information sharing.
Developer relationships are enduring and do not end once a project or degree program is complete.
No one individual possesses the skills and abilities to be all things to all people. Yet all three relationships are important for achieving student outcomes. The authors assert that students must appreciate the kind of support available from each type of relationship to maximize benefits. If students are better informed about roles, they can be intentional about seeking appropriate expertise by identifying individuals who may best support the student’s short, mid and longer-term development. The authors suggest students reflect on questions provided to diversify their developmental networks while gaining interpersonal and networking skills.
The vocabulary and frame provided by authors Baker and Griffin is valuable in re-conceptualizing faculty roles for student interaction and engagement and provides a toolkit for intentionally choosing the type of role that best meets faculty and student needs, interests and abilities.