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What Matters in Mentoring:  Testing and Measuring A Mentor Training Intervention


NIH Grant #1R01GM094573, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Angela Byars-Winston, Associate Professor of Medicine

Christine Pfund, Co-Associate Director, Delta Program

Janet Branchaw, Director, Institute for Biology Education


Project Goal

The overall goal of this research project is to develop, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of research mentor training interventions to advance the scientific pursuits of underrepresented minorities.


Table of Contents

Main Research Questions

Methods, Participants, Strategies for Data Collection & Variables of Interest

Key Findings and Progress to Date

Next Research Steps

Conference Presentations



The Leadership TeamAngela Byars-Winston

Angela Byars-Winston is a counseling psychologist and an Associate Professor in the UW-Madison

School of Medicine and  Public Health. She studies students' academic and career development in life

sciences, engineering, and medicine. Her social cognitive perspective emphasizes cultural influences for women and racial and ethnic minority students.


Christine Pfund is a cell and molecular biologist. For years she has been Co-Associate Director of Christine Pfund

the UW-Madison Delta Program in Research, Teaching, and Learning. Delta, a member of the Center 

for Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) Network, which prepares graduate students, post-

doctoral researchers, and current faculty to meet the challenges of national science, technology, 

engineering and math (STEM) higher education. 


Janet Branchaw, a physiologist, is Director of Undergraduate Research Programs and InterimJanet Branchaw

Director at the UW-Madison Institute for Biology Education. The Institute provides infrastructure,

leadership, and a forum for consultation to achieve the best possible biology education for university 

students, for K-12 students, and for informal learners of all ages. Branchaw and Pfund

recently completed a project hosted in WCER to adapt the Wisconsin Mentoring Seminar to use

across STEM.




Main Research Questions

Specific Aim #1

Establish the psychometric properties of the research mentor and mentee surveys currently in use to evaluate the Wisconsin Entering Mentoring Seminar (WMS) and establish evidence for their construct validity and reliability. 
Guiding research question: What theoretically-grounded constructs exist in validated measures of research mentoring relationships?

Specific Aim #2

Identify critical elements in research mentoring relationships associated with student outcomes.
Guiding research question: How are the empirically-based constructs identified in Specific Aim #1 related to intended student outcomes?

Specific Aim #3

Modify the WMS in response to Specific Aim #2 and test the effectiveness of this adapted research mentor training intervention on student outcomes.
Guiding research question: What is the effectiveness of an adapted research mentor training intervention on increasing student outcomes based on empirically-tested constructs?

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Methods: Participants, Strategies for Data Collection & Variables of Interest


--574 participants: URM (46%) and White undergraduate mentees participating in mentored research experiences (summer & academic year) in biology at University of Wisconsin-Madison

--For 67% of mentees (397/574), we can identify whether they worked with trained or untrained mentor to empirically examine effect of mentor training on mentee outcomes

--Survey data from 350 mentors will also be analyzed

Strategies for Data Collection and Planned Analyses:

--Use item and exploratory factor analysis to validate two instruments--one for mentees, on for mentors--based on variables from social cognitive career theory (SCCT)

--Further refine the item content of our measures in two ways: 1) Critique content against Bandura's (2001) eleven criteria for assessing self-efficacy measures; 2) Conduct brief focus groups with mentors and mentees to gather more input on critical factors (in addition to SCCT variables) in the research mentoring relationship that contribute to desired student outcome

    Variables of Interest:

    --SCCT constructs including sources of efficacy, efficacy and outcome expectancies;

    --Perceived roles and responsibilities for mentors and mentees;

    --Perceptions of critical incidents that facilitate mentees' research interests and intentions;

    --Consideration of cultural identity in the mentoring relationship

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    Key Findings and Progress-to-Date


    We listed six tasks and objectives under Specific Aim #1 as depicted below. We have completed the first 3 tasks; the remaining 3 tasks are underway and expected to be completed by September 30, 2011.

    We have run initial Exploratory Factor Analyses on 14 Confidence items, 14 Skills items, and 5 Knowledge items.  The confidence items relate to both academic and career domains and are included in the Knowledge and Confidence scales:


    --Exploratory factor analysis of a random sample of half the mentees revealed evidence of a dominant single factor (first eigenvalue=13.9, second eigenvalue=1.7)

    --Item means are around 4 (Min=3.62, Max=4.6)

    --Item-total correlations range from 0.249 to 0.679, with most being over 0.4.  Values generally indicate that items discriminate well between high- and low-scorers on the scale

    --Some evidence for other factors is needed, but other exploratory analyses (e.g., investigation of differences among sample years) will be performed to determine them

    --Mentee focus groups are scheduled and mentor focus groups are to be held early fall semester

    --Mentor survey data analyses will also be conducted fall semester

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    Next Research Steps

    --Specific Aim #2:  Identify critical elements in research mentoring relationships associated with student outcome.  Guiding Research Question: How are the empirically-based constructs identified in Specific Aim #1 related to intended student outcomes?

    --Make decisions on a final factor structure using further exploratory analysis, focus group data and taking into consideration our theoretical framework of SCCT.

    --Analyze and interpret aligned mentor and mentee data.

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    Conference Presentations

    --APA 2013

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