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UTech researcher wants junior academics to be mentored by seniors

Published:Wednesday | July 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Academic life can be a rigorous and demanding one. This is why one University of Technology (UTech) researcher is calling for junior lecturers at the tertiary level to be mentored and coached by their seniors.

In a recently published paper, Dr Carmel Roofe-Bowen, a senior lecturer in education at UTech, said obtaining a terminal degree does not necessarily make faculty members effective lecturers or researchers.

"It is important to have your terminal degree because that makes quality standing for the university and you are looked on as a university as being of good quality the more persons you have with a PhD. However, there is another level of capacity-building that is needed ... . It is good and well to acquire the PhD, but that mentoring orientation is critical for success," she said.

For Roofe-Bowen, too many early academics are left on their own to fend for themselves.

"What we are finding is that because we don't have support for young academics in place whether these are formalised or set up for the ongoing journey, some may become frustrated, or some may not achieve as much because they are trying to get their footing ... but if they have someone to guide them; sometimes, we have the theoretical knowledge, but the practical know-how is lacking," she added.


Teaching affected


She also indicated that the lack of mentorship of early academics affects the quality of teaching and research that is produced by a university.

"You may have good quality coming out, but the frequency of that quality is what is affected, so where you may find an early academic taking about two years to get their first paper in a high-impact journal, if you had that mentoring/coaching opportunity, it may take less time to get published in a quality journal because there is someone who knows the ropes and can point you in the right direction," she argued.

Roofe-Bowen further lamented that many seasoned academics are not willing to mentor newer lecturers and researchers. This, she says, is due to the fact that it has become difficult to find time to mentor given all the pressures of university life.

She also pointed out that the attitudes of both senior and junior academics limit opportunities for mentorship and coaching.

"Normally, in our context, we feel threatened by persons who are younger and probably bright, so you have those persons who are not willing to open up the gate so to speak ... and then the other side of it is that sometimes, the early academics feel like they are just leaving university with all this knowledge and they know it all," she said.