Students present major research-focused team assessment task
FULT Alumni Good Practice Case Studies
eMentoring in the Medical Sciences
A community of early-career biomedical research scientists was established and mentored to deliver online “eMentoring” to undergraduate students completing a major research-focused team assessment task.
Dr Blake Cochran and Professor Patsie Polly, with student colleagues Mr Bo Wei Ou (Edmond) and Ms Jorjina Kasparian.
PATH3205 - Molecular Basis of Disease
Demonstration of good practice
Students in the third-year Molecular Basis of Disease course present a research topic as a panel discussion. This is many students’ first exposure to the forefront of biomedical research. Their transition from the earlier stages of medical-science education, where they primarily assimilate knowledge and gain familiarity with domain-specific schema, to a more research-focused approach is often difficult. Teams of students were paired with Early Career Research scientists, who had volunteered because they wished to participate in a community of practice as they helped undergraduates develop research skills. The students collaborated with these “more capable peers” (Vygotsky 1978) to review the literature and learn how scientific consensus works in practice. Digital collaboration via eMentoring has been shown to enhance experiential learning (Hemingway et al. 2015) and, specifically in a medical context, improve learning experiences by supporting both traditional learning and peer learning and teaching (Obura et al. 2011). An online platform allowed collaboration between students and mentors, supported flexibility in how groups interacted, and integrated tools and systems that are becoming common in the research landscape. Students reported improved research skills, increased understanding of topics, and professional development relating to engaging with the research community and using online communication and teamwork platforms.
Hemingway, C, Adams, C, & Stuhlsatz, M 2015, Digital collaborative learning: identifying what students value, F100Res, vol. 4, no. 74.
Kennedy, G E, Judd, T S, Churchward, A, Gray, K, & Krause, K L 2008, First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 24, pp.108-122.
Obura, T, Brant, W E, Miller, F, & Parboosingh, I J 2011, Participating in a community of learners enhances resident perceptions of learning in an e-mentoring program: proof of concept. BMC Medical Education, vol. 11, no. 3.
Vygotsky, L S 1978, Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M Cole, V John-Steiner, S Scribner, & E Souberman, eds.) (A R Luria, M Lopez-Morillas, & M Cole [with J V Wertsch], Trans.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
A tip for other educators
The platform you choose to use matters! Students are already trying to learn the content without having to adapt to yet another digital platform (Kennedy et al. 2008). We faced significant resistance to the use of Slack, even though it was becoming a common tool in both research and professional environments. However, as Microsoft Teams was used being extensively in the shift to fully online teaching due to COVID19, students did not have to use a “new” system for the eMentoring; this led to increased participation and more favourable evaluations of the program’s usefulness from both students and mentors.
Edmond and Jorjina's story
My eMentoring experience was fantastic. The assessment task really did set us up for future assessments in third year. It was great to have that mentor who was knowledgeable about the current research to guide us through the process of conducting research, but also how to analyse it and make sense of the information we were reading. Although the mentoring started face to face, it had to be moved online because of the pandemic. However, I don’t believe we were greatly impacted. Our mentor was always approachable, and she made sure to always keep us accountable and on track.
The eMentoring aspect from an early-career researcher with expert knowledge was of tremendous help with both understanding and presenting the topic. Looking at research papers that they deemed were significant helped us get a general but well-rounded understanding of the topic. Our mentor was always there to guide us through the complex science, knowledge gaps, and potential literature that explored these knowledge gaps. This in a way almost felt like a mini Honours literature review. The greatest part about the mentoring aspect of the PATH3205 assignment was that it helped tremendously with understanding how science should be presented.