Africa’s Brain Bank’s Twelve-Strand Systemic Mentoring Model
The following twelve strand systemic mentoring model is derived in part from the Ten Strand Systemic Mentoring Model of the Timbuktu Academy (1). It deliberately entails a weaving of the following “overlapping” strands. [The implementation of its model and related results earned the Timbuktu Academy the 2002 US Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM mentoring [US=PAESMEM].
(1) “Basic and Advanced Research Training for the New Millennium: the Model of the Timbuktu Academy.” D. Bagayoko, R. Bobba, E. L. Kelley, and S. Hasan. Journal of Materials Education, Vol. 24 (1-3), Pages 177-184, 2002.
1. Financial support is provided to the scholars from a variety of sources – guidance, monitoring, and other components of systemic mentoring guarantee the use of the resulting “time dividend” for studies, research, and related enrichment activities on a full time basis. The rule of thumb is to secure a diversified funding base for the financial support to be provided to the mentees.
2. Comprehensive, Scientific Advisement – The proper sequencing of courses is treated with the utmost care. Indeed, the internal rigidity (or taxonomic structure) of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) disciplines requires this approach. Empowering the learner is a central aim of mentoring. This empowerment includes grasping the Power Law of Human Performance and its extension, the Law of Human Performance (ILP); and knowing a few time-tested facts and practices (first-time memory retention curve, the value of effective study groups, a problem solving paradigm, the difference between lacking a background material and not being “smart.”). New and emerging social media and related platforms should be integrated into this advisement and support system for optimal results. These platforms include WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc., for social media, and virtual platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, etc.
3. Communication skill enhancement – A host of listening, speaking, reading, writing and related activities are aimed at developing the mastery of the applicable language (English), a vehicle of thought. This activity entails vigorous exposure to technical communication as provided for in “Writing for Success” (1998, McGraw-Hill Companies, pp. 135-176 and pp. 212-215), beyond regular English course work. Again, the tool of asynchronous interactions noted above should be utilized in aspect of the communication skill enhancement.
4. Tutoring – Tutoring by faculty members and particularly by peers will continue to be available to the students or scholars who need it. (In fact, regular tutoring areas are often taken over by self-organized study groups!) Tutoring is for excellence, not for remediation; it is to address holes in a background and to reinforce known essentials; the need for it is not a sign of any lack of intrinsic smartness, so says the Power Law of Human Performance, but rather a wise recognition of the internal rigidity of STEM fields. Incidentally, tutoring by advanced scholars also promotes their communication skills and their sense of self-worth, while they review materials (so says the PLHP and the LHP)!
5. Generic research activities – Rigorous literature searches are conducted by the scholars on several subjects. They master sophisticated search algorithms, electronic searches, and related iterations. The scientific literature is an unlimited source of research questions! Refereed literature is the standard for STEM disciplines. Discussions of the fine structures of the scientific method, critical thinking, and of creative thinking are part of this discourse.
6. Specific research project execution by the scholars in our mentoring programs – Faculty members and researchers at federal and industrial laboratories serve as research supervisors and mentors during the summer. According to the Law of Human Performance, research experiences should prepare for graduate studies and for productive research careers. Seeking summer research opportunities on-line, at conferences, and through visits to various laboratories and agencies is one requirement for a mentoring program. Assisting scholars to apply vigorously and professionally for these opportunities and maintaining adequate files on each scholar, partly for the purpose of writing substantial (as opposed to general and vague) recommendations, are some tasks for mentors to accomplish.
7. Development of a professional culture – Every scholar is exposed to discussions that explore the dimensions of ethics in science. Immersion in a professional culture demands regular reading of technical journals and appropriate magazines of professional societies, conference attendance, and collaboration with others. Current awareness needs no explanation in an era of information explosion. Professional practices and standards are set and seen in publications, regular (weekly) seminars, and at conferences. As for the need for and value of collaboration, we simply assert that not one individual has built or operated a nuclear submarine, an aircraft carrier, or a space shuttle alone!
8. Appropriation of Emerging Computer and Technological Skills – The mastery of productivity tools, including word-processing, spreadsheets, database, graphics, other applications, and scientific programming (C++, FORTRAN, etc.) are needed. Electronic communication and productive surfing of the web are needed by the middle of the first semester. Advanced exposure has to include a programming language. (The need for these activities stems from practices in the environments to which the students are destined, i.e., graduate schools and the global, competitive market). Some of the skills envisioned here are related to CAMSS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social, and Security).
9. Monitoring –facilitated by the mentoring portfolios of scholars. Without this portfolio, a mentoring cannot be comprehensive or systemic as we now understand it. With monitoring, throughout the semester, potential problems are avoided before they become permanent Fs. Preventive measures include concentrated efforts, extra-tutoring, and the last resort, dropping a course. The former two steps are best when they are taken as early as possible. The latter step is not an available option past a certain date after mid-term! The monitoring of research participation and performance is critical for another reason: the development or reinforcement of non-cognitive skills that undergird success (self-discipline, hard work, assiduity, working well with others, etc.). Monitoring and evaluation are part of a professional environment, without them, who will know what a beautiful job a scholar has done! As such, blind peer assessments and electronic performance evaluation can enhance the monitoring process.
10. Guidance to Graduate School – It begins in the freshman year (or earlier) and includes research experiences, conference attendance, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation starting the freshman year, and opportunities for financial support for graduate studies! Placement in graduate programs follows steps similar to those for summer placement. The number and the extent of the opportunities depend on the cumulative grade point average for the BS degree, the courses taken, research experiences and results, and the GRE score. In addition, graduate preparation will include an understanding of the non-academic factors that are critical to success in graduate school (study habits, self-discipline, hard work, etc.). Emphasis will be placed on the establishment of a seamless transition to graduate schools.
11 Leadership Development by Design Leadership rests in part on the correct processing of information, particularly in an age where falsehood is easily spread through the Web. Ensuring the accuracy, the precision, and the completeness of information is necessary before acting on it. With this correct information processing ability, sound judgment, good character, and high work ethics are three pillars of leadership to be honed by design. The role of the Strand on communication ability is crucial in enabling leadership.
12. The Development of Civic Virtue. Civic virtue entails the understanding of the role of an individual in the success of society. As such, it involves the dedication of individuals to the common welfare of society. This behavioral trait, like cognitive ones, is developed and honed through practice, as per the Law of Human Performance (LHP).