Frequently Asked Questions for Mentors

Mentors from a wide range of Schools and Directorates have told the PCUTL team that they experience very similar opportunities and challenges when mentoring a PCUTL participant. We have drawn on their feedback to compile the following FAQs, which we hope will help you in your PCUTL mentoring role.

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How can I help my mentee with the education theory when I have not done PCUTL myself?

Other mentors see their role as helping participants make sense of the things they learn on PCUTL for their local situation. We all have experience and knowledge of resources relevant to help students learn our subject.

Some mentors have found it works to talk around things in practice with a real example, while others have formed a network of PCUTL mentors in their School – sometimes holding joint mentoring sessions too.

The PCUTL Learning Central modules also have a Discussion Board for mentors to help people network across Schools.

My mentee is having difficultly finding the time to read and reflect upon the educational literature. What should I advise?

Some mentors have been able to negotiate protected time for the participant for this purpose. Others suggested encouraging participants to form a support group with other ‘PCUTLers’ in the School or Directorate.

My mentees are scientists and they feel the educational literature is ‘wishy washy’. What can I do to support them?

Other mentors have suggested helping the participant to identify clear theories in the literature, and to help them apply a theory or theories to a practical teaching issue they are dealing with. There are lots of resources for teaching science-based subjects on the HEA and JORUM websites.

I have observed a few of my mentee’s lectures, as required as part of PCUTL. Could I peer review any other aspect of their teaching role?

Yes, you could. For example, you could critique their feedback on assessments, their writing exam papers, their lesson plans, hand-outs – a whole range of things – and then the ‘evidence’ will slot into their portfolio.

My mentee has little opportunity to alter the curriculum content as it’s dictated by a professional body, and the teaching, learning and assessment are already well established.  Therefore, my mentee can’t put all his PCUTL learning into effect.

Other mentors have suggested encouraging participants to accept that only little changes in pedagogy are possible sometimes. Small changes can have a big impact. The portfolio does give participants a safe place for detailed module critique which they can draw on in future years when they have the opportunity to design modules for themselves. If you are involved in strategic decisions about the curriculum, could you involve your mentee in those discussions too?

I’m not sure my mentee understands what the role of PCUTL Mentor involves. How can I clarify things?

Other mentors have suggested setting parameters and having regular meetings at which the mentee can discuss opportunities and challenges.

Guidance on the role of mentors, and the mentoring relationship, is provided to participants in their Module Handbook, and you may find it useful to go through that guidance together.

I am finding it difficult to fit the mentoring responsibilities into an already busy schedule. What would you suggest?

Other mentors’ suggestions include:

  • trying to negotiate protected time for mentoring;
  • allocating discrete but limited time for each of the mentoring activities;
  • if you teach together it may be possible to double-badge some of your teaching discussion, double marking times etc.

My mentee is not in my Department, so we don’t have the opportunity for informal corridor conversations which have been so useful with my other mentees. I feel both the mentee and I are losing out.

Other mentors recognise this problem but suggest that mentors and mentees gain from thinking outside the box and working with different groups of people. Some mentors in this position say that they have to take on a more ‘chasing’ role to help their mentee feel included, but feel the payoff is the fresh ideas they pick up.

I have heard that PCUTL focuses on small group teaching. Is this correct because my mentee teaches mostly large groups

Various forms of teaching and support of learning are covered in PCUTL, but their is no expectation that participants will be involved in all these forms. When you attend a workshop for new mentors the PCUTL team will provide an overview of the programme content. This should help you to assist your mentee to relate the PCUTL curriculum to their own context.

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