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  • The first meeting essentially is a relaxed, informal conversation between mentor and mentee where they can discuss the future of their mentoring relationship.
  • It should be understood that despite this being the first informal meeting, anything that is discussed should remain confidential, regardless of whether or not the mentoring relationship continues or not. Confidentiality is crucial to the mentoring relationship. Information, including sensitive personal information should not be revealed without the individual’s permission. In rare cases, disclosure may occur without consent if there is good reason to believe that the individual or others are at risk.
  • Choose a suitable location where you both feel comfortable, perhaps somewhere neutral and informal over a cup of coffee.
  • Both mentor and mentee should come prepared, ensuring that both come with clear expectations of the relationship and in particular agree the mentees goals and objectives as they embark on a mentoring relationship.
  • Give a brief description of both the mentor’s and mentee’s background, career path, job role etc.
  • Agree both the purpose of the meeting and the purpose of the mentor/mentee relationship. This should include the mentee communicating their needs and objectives, what the broader outcomes should be, and approximate duration of the relationship.
  • Establish a clear understanding that both mentor and mentee will be honest and candid about whether they feel the relationship will work after the first meeting.
  • Discuss and agree some ground rules for the relationship.
  • Finally, agree the date for your next meeting!

The following is a sample account of a first meeting:

First Mentoring Meeting....Met with ------ for ~1.5 hours today (2nd  February).

His specific problem is that he was asked to teach a module that he felt a little of out of his depth with. He had been given some materials but not the full course. In the engineering programmatic review the module had changed from a continuous assessment one to one that now has a 70% exam. There was no exam papers to guide him in relation to the content. Also he felt that some of the content he had been given might not be the most relevant and did not really fit very well with his understanding of the module descriptor. He was to have a lab on Thursday morning with this group (it is now Tuesday evening), a class on Friday morning and did not have a very clear idea of what he would be doing in either.

I should state that ----  is a past PhD student of mine so we would have had an established relationship and there is trust and respect on both sides. I think that might make it very different from other Mentor/Mentee relationships. He has also done some part-time lecturing here so is not entirely new to the system.

Our meeting began by looking at the module descriptor. My advice was to focus on the Learning Outcomes rather than the Indicative Content and that if he could develop content that was aligned with the Learning Outcomes then he would not have anything to worry about. We spent some time discussing the learning outcomes and what they could mean. We spent some time discussing technical details related to the Learning Outcomes i.e. generating some ideas of things he might be able to do to deliver on the Learning Outcomes. On reflection a lot of the discussion mirrored my own perspective on teaching and learning i.e. it was about how the learning outcomes could be applied and made meaningful rather than a focus on content for its own sake. It wasn’t something that I had intentionally set out to do but I guess it is an inevitable outcome.

As we were finishing up I was thinking that he would probably think that the conversation was useful and affirming but that he was probably not any better placed to deliver something on Thursday or Friday. So I finished off by asking what he was planning on doing. He mentioned a few things that he might do on both days. I probed the rational for Fridays choices and how they might support or link to the activities that would be done in the lab the following week. I guess that led him  to reconsider and develop (what I would consider) a much better plan. As part of this conversation it occurred to me that when I am considering content, particularly the question of what content, it is always in relation to laboratories and assessment. I tend not to choose content that cannot be applied or brought to life in a laboratory setting or that cannot be assessed in some meaningful way. As a method, it has always worked well for me and students respond positively to it. I suggested to him that it would be good to keep it in mind as he is developing the module content.

We concluded by discussing the final exam which was worth 70%. Given this weighting students are going to be very focused on the assessment. A problem is that they have no past exams to guide them as to what might be asked or the types of questions to expect. I suggested to him that he would probably have to create a sample exam in addition to the summer exam around Easter time to give his students a sense of what to expect. I also suggested that, maybe on a weekly basis, he would develop a number of example questions/problems that relate to the material he considered that week. If his exam is based around those example problems, and students have a sample exam, then they would have enough support to do well on the final exam. He agreed that they would be the types of supports he would like if he was one of the students taking the course.

I think it was a very useful meeting. I felt that I helped him get a sense of what could be done, of how to go about doing and perhaps, more importantly, he had a good idea of what to do in the immediate future. I think it was useful for me in that it crystallised some of the ways that I think. The conversation converted some tacit knowledge into something more explicit. It felt good to be able to help someone out of a fairly deep hole.”

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