Research on University Faculty Mentoring of Students

Being a university faculty member is a career that’s loaded with challenges, and TIME is a key one. Yet faculty are the best positioned persons for at least some aspects of supporting student success, especially for ensuring that such assistance and support aligns with instructional content and activities. So – it is critical that faculty who do mentor students know the research-based best mentoring practices. That way, whatever time they can give to mentoring is focused on the essentials known to produce the most student growth and best results. THAT is what this and related web pages in this section are all about.



1. Faculty Mentoring of Undergraduate Students

2. Faculty Mentoring of Graduate Students

Faculty Mentoring of Undergraduate Students

McClure, A. I., Atkinson, M. P., & Wills, J. B. (2008). Transferring teaching skills: Faculty development effects from a first-year inquiry program, 20(1), 31-52.


First Year College (FYC) is designed to serve as the “college of options” for students entering North Carolina State University (NCSU) who have not selected an academic major. The FYC is a comprehensive and systematic, nationally-recognized model for successfully engaging, supporting, and guiding first year students. The program combines a unique set of components to achieve this success.

  • Cross-curricular trained, full-time professional advisers
    • who provide personal, one-on-one academic and career advising
    • who also are the instructors in the FYC freshmen orientation / seminar
  • A two-semester, credit, orientation course (most are one)
  • Low adviser-student ratios
  • Small class sections to increase4 student-faculty connections
  • Departmental faculty who are committed to the FYC program, it’s instructional
    methods, and student success, trained as faculty mentors and in structured
    experiential teaching and learning;
  • The living-learning community, which includes:
    • Students may live in one of two FYC residence halls
    • Upper-class peer mentors
    • Easy access to the FYC advising offices in the dorms

Study Focus

There is a significant research base which demonstrates the role of effective first-year programs on students’ success in college. There is much less available research that examines the effects these programs have on faculty. The goal of this study was to investigate how participating in a first-year program influences how faculty teach their other courses.


Focus groups were conducted with 20 faculty members who teach the first-year seminars at NCSU. Questions focused the participants on discovering if and how teaching first year seminars using an experiential approach had influenced their teaching in their other courses. Results were coded and analyzed for patterns in the data.


Faculty reported positive transfer effects in four areas of teaching:

1. Reflecting on teaching methods
2. Using formal measures to assess critical thinking by students was happening
3. Devoting class time to discussions about critical thinking
4. Reevaluating how they see themselves as instructors.


These findings are each important elements in improvement of instruction. This suggests that participation in the structural elements of first-year programs, such as faculty training, peer mentoring, and involved membership in a teaching community, benefit participating faculty and, by extension, benefit the students they teach in their other non FYC classes.

Faculty Mentoring of Graduate Students

Rose, G.L. (2005). Group Differences in Graduate Students’ Concepts of the Ideal Mentor. Research in Higher Education, Vol. 46, No. 1, February 2005

The Program

The full report was searched and other lines of inquiry were followed, but we cannot tell for sure which universities were used in the study, so we do not know the specifics of the mentoring programs. The language of the report tells us nothing about role definition, program goals, program name, or mentor training were described. Of course their role as dissertation advisors was very formal. The inquiry is not about whether doctoral advisores were effective, but rather served as the reference point for graduate students to think about the qualities of an ideal mentor.

All of this seems to be insignificant here as the study investigates graduate student perceptions about the ideal mentor, which makes this a conceptual inquiry, not an program-specific study.

The Study

This study examined the relationship between students’ demographic and academic characteristics (age, gender, citizenship, academic discipline, and stage of persistence) and their preferences for three styles of mentoring assessed by the Ideal Mentor Scale (IMS): Integrity, Guidance, and Relationship.

The Ideal Mentor Scale – is a brief self-report instrument derived from the work of Levinson et al. (1978) on adult development and Anderson and Shannon’s (1988) comprehensive model of mentoring. The IMS was developed to define what a mentor is and does for doctoral students.

Respondents used a 1–5 scale to rate the importance of the IMS factors.

Study Sample

The original sample was 1309 doctoral students. Students had to be enrolled in Ph.D. programs at one of two Midwestern Tier I Research Universities. Students were recruited by mail and were asked to complete a questionnaire that collected demographic and other data needed for the study comparisons. Six hundred and thirty-five students returned questionnaires, for a 48% response rate.

A total of 537 of the possible 635 completed the IMS, rating the importance of each of 34 mentor attributes on a 5-point likert type scale.

Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) and other such statistical analyses were used to test the hypotheses.


  1. GENDER – This was a significant factor for students.
    1. Females rated Integrity more important than did males.
    2. Men and womens’ratings for Guidance and Relationship were similar.
  2. CITIZENSHIP – This factor was the most robust of all the comparisons. International students rated Relationship more important than did the US citizens.
  3. AGE OF STUDENT – As age increased the importance of the personal relationship aspect of mentoring decreased for both male and female.
  4. All other factors were insignificant.


Mentoring means different things to different people.

  1. The concept of the ideal mentor varies by age, gender, and citizenship, but not by academic discipline or stage of persistence in the doctoral program.
  2. Demographic attributes, more than academic classifications, seem to drive student notions about the qualities of a person from whom they would seek
    assistance with the achievement of professional and personal aspirations.

Editor’s Note

Some of these data may seem counter-intuitive to some readers, especially those which indicate that factors like “field of study” were not significant. The data are what they are.

Put it in the larger context. This means both men and women cared more about relationships with their advisor / mentor, and more about that person’s integrity and skills at guidance than they did about that person’s field of study. It also means that these preferences remained unchanged as the students developed and the progress in the doctoral program.

However, this preference DID change because as age of the student increased, the importance of the personal relationship aspect of mentoring decreased.


Levinson, E. E., Darrow, C. N., Klein, E. B., Levinson, M. H., and McKee, B. (1978). The Seasons of a Man’s Life, Ballantine Books, New York.

Anderson, E., & Shannon, A. (1988). Toward a conceptualization of mentoring. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), 38-42.

Luna, G., & Cullen, D. (1998). Do graduate students need mentoring? College Student Journal,32 (3) , 322-330.

The program

No formal mentoring program was in place. in fact, survey respondents requested that the researchers should set up a mentoring program for graduate students.

The Study

Beginning in 1997 the graduate students at a large university were surveyed about their perceptions of their experience with faculty fulfilling mentoring functions. The survey had items which inquired into five topics:

1. Did they feel they were mentored?
2. Who were the mentors?
3. What kind of mentoring did they receive?
4. What mentoring challenges did they experience?
5. How important is mentoring for graduate students?

The survey was completed by 71 females and 38 males representing 11 different disciplines.

The Results

  1. Most (all but 4 of the 109) students had advisors (21%) and professors (16%) who functioned like a mentor.
  2. The 109 participants reported that they had 333 persons who serve as mentors to them, so most had multiple mentors.
  3. Most students received mentoring described as consisting of:
    1. Role modeling (13%)
    2. Support (13%)
    3. Coaching for skill development (13%)
  4. Most students faced mentoring problems.
    1. > The majority reported no problems or did not respond to the item.
    2. > Problems included:
      • Insufficient time with the mentor
      • Difficulty in accessing mentors
      • Unrealistically high expectations for them held by their mentor.
  5. 83% felt mentors were important to graduate students.
  6. 81% (n=88) said they would be willing to serve as a mentor to a more junior student.

Green, S.G. and Bauer, T.N. (1998). Supervisory Mentoring by Advisors: Relationships with Doctoral Student Potential, Productivity, and Commitment. Personnel Psychology. 1998: 48.

The Program

No program information is given and no mentoring program existed. The research is based on the understanding that administration has that doctoral advisors will function as informal mentors along with their other roles as advisors and teachers. We know only that the location was a large Midwestern university.

The Study

This study was a two year longitudinal research project. It involved 233 entry level Ph.D. students. This study is designed to assess whether mentoring functions add value after the student’s own talents and work attitudes are taken into account.

The study is unique and makes a contribution because most other research on these topics are retrospective, looking back on the mentoring at the end point. That method prevents researchers form defining the chronological order of events. Since the present study employs a 2-year, longitudinal design, student potential can be assessed before supervisory mentoring can occur. In addition, the mentoring functions experienced at the end of their first year, as well as outcomes at the end of their second year can be assessed. This design allows us to be sure that student potential preceded the mentoring and that both student potential and supervisory mentoring preceded the outcome.

  • Hypothesis I: The positive work attitudes of students at program entry will be positively associated with the adviser providing more supervisory mentoring during the first year of the program;
  • Hypothesis 2: Indicators of student ability to perform at program entry will be positively associated with the adviser providing more supervisory mentoring during the first year of the program.

Data Collection

This method is described as a “three panel” approach, which relates to data display charts. Basically, the data were collected at three points during the two years of the study so they could be compared and conclusions reached regarding changes in student perceptions across time.

  1. Questionnaires were sent to all students during the first 3 weeks of the academic school year.Questionnaires were not anonymous to allow data comparisons for the same students, but confidentiality was assured. After several folIow-ups to obtain missing questionnaires, a total of 233 questionnaires were returned, a response rate of 65%.
  2. Data were collected a second time 3 weeks prior to the end of the students’ first academic year. The response rate was 84% (n = 195/233).
  3. Data were collected a third time (T3) 3 weeks prior to the end of the students’
    second academic year. The response rate was 83% (n = 161/195).

21 students were dropped from the sample because, over the two years of the study, they had changed advisors.

The Results

1. The more advisors perceived students to have potential, the greater was their mentoring in all three categories.)

2. The perceived student productivity or commitment to the program did not influence advisor mentoring for psycho-social or research collaboration.

3. Advisor career mentoring decreased as student commitment was perceived to decrease.