CAUT Report

UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

Lyn Abbott, Associate Dean, Agriculture and Wool Science, Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia

Jane den Hollander, Director of Student Services, The University of Western Australia

Sato Juniper, Coordinator of the Women in Science and Engineering Project, The University of Western Australia

Developing Mentoring for Effective Learning in Agriculture

Lyn Abbott,
Jane den Hollander,
Sato Juniper,

This CAUT project was completed during 1995 and addressed the issue of enhancing the learning environment for students in the Faculty of Agriculture, with special attention to the needs of students about to enter the profession. The objectives of the project were:
  • to train both students and mentors in the art of mentoring;
  • to identify a framework of expectation of students in the student/mentor relationship; and
  • to allow students to practice mentoring with school students.
This project was established in the Faculty of Agriculture at UWA where there was already moderate participation in the Student Mentor Program initiated by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (AIAST) in 1988. However, the effectiveness of this program was not as high as might be expected. In addition, for two years previously, students in the 3rd year of the four-year degrees in the Faculty were assigned, voluntarily, as mentors to first year students to assist their entry into university life. As for the AIAST scheme, this was also limited in its success. For both previous schemes, there was a need to increase the awareness of the value of mentoring among students about the roles of the mentor and responsibilities of the student and to clearly illustrate the benefits that can arise from effective mentoring relationships.

The CAUT project was used to guide students in developing the protocol for a Mentor Workshop and a Mentoring Handbook to facilitate future mentoring activities in the Faculty. Committee members of the Student Section of AIAST in WA participated in organising the program with the coordinator (Jane den Hollander). Students in the Faculty participated in the workshops that were used to increase awareness of mentoring, develop skills in mentoring and to identify the contents of the handbook on mentoring and the guidelines for future workshops.

Initially it was intended to match students in the Faculty as mentors with high school students. However, circumstances arose that made it easier to initiate this aspect of the program with students in the Primary Extension and Academic Challenge Program (PEAC) of the Education Department in WA.

The overall mentoring activities in the Faculty were therefore:

  • students in 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of the degrees in the Faculty were matched with a mentor in the profession through the AIAST (30-50 students participate);
  • students in the 2nd and 3rd year of the degrees were matched with 1st year students (30-40 students participate, each mentor is usually matched with more than one first year student); and
  • students in 3rd year were matched as mentors with primary school students through two PEAC Centres (10 students participate as mentors each year).
The major outcome of the CAUT project has been the production of a handbook on mentoring "Friends in the Workplace" and a series of guidelines on setting up a mentor program, running workshops, communicating with students and mentors and evaluating the programs. As a result, the existing programs have been formalised with a well designed and relevant training aspect which is useful to all participants. A procedure for running an ongoing program, a time-line for action and a method for evaluation have been set in place.

The model developed, and the handbook have already been used extensively outside the Faculty of Agriculture. For example, in 1996, the handbook and workshop guidelines were adapted for use by the Graduate Association of The University of Western Australia in setting up a graduate mentor program for students in other Faculties at this university in collaboration with Jane Den Hollander. In 1997, the material produced from this CAUT project was adapted for implementation of a major first year mentor program for students in the Faculty of Engineering at UWA by the coordinator of the Women in Science and Engineering Project (Sato Juniper). In both cases, minor modification of the handbook was all that was required to adapt it for the specific needs of each group.

This CAUT project was just the start of a long-term program to develop the mentoring ethos among students in the Faculty of Agriculture. The first step towards developing concrete material to use in extending the mentoring message has been highly successful. Full support of the profession was demonstrated when a copy of the handbook was given to all members of the AIAST in Western Australia by the State committee. The AIAST is encouraging all its members to actively participate as mentors to students.

We have clearly established a support network to maintain active mentoring activities within the Faculty. In addition, the AIAST in WA is actively supporting the students by selecting appropriate mentors and by participating in workshops themselves to improve their own mentor skills.

Overall, we have the keystone of a successful program. In the long term our students will be mentored by professionals who have excellent mentoring skills (learned through participating in mentoring programs while at university). The improved standard of mentoring both within the Faculty and through professional involvement will allow students to increase their understanding of Faculty activities and directions, and through effective professional mentoring will enhance the interest of students and their search for further knowledge and understanding. In the long-term, these benefits are expected to enhance student motivation and learning in all their studies while at university.

Return to Contents

UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Page Maintained By:
Last Update: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 15:42:02 AEST