Being an Academic Mentor

Academic Mentors provide guidance and coach students on a wide range of academic and pastoral topics. 

Often, academic mentoring sessions can act as space for dialogic education, where academics and students can discuss students’ studies and the links of the content to themselves and current events.

Equally, the role is sometimes just about being an initial contact, listening and empathising, then referring the student on to the correct support service.

The role

Academic mentors provide guidance and coach students on a wide range of academic and pastoral topics that are relevant to students during their time at LSE. 

Students enter LSE with a wide range of different educational backgrounds, and academic mentoring gives them a chance to discuss their experiences with academics to help them succeed throughout their time at the School.  The mentoring relationship eases students into the academic community and its expectations while offering students a space where they can pose questions or seek advice. 

Often, academic mentoring sessions can act as a space for dialogic education, where academics and students can discuss students’ studies and the links of the content to themselves and current events.

When you don’t know the answer to specific queries, which may happen, you are expected to refer students to other support units (such as LSE LIFE, the Language Centre, Student Wellbeing Service, or the Library to name a few).  By being an initial contact, students have someone they know in a mentorship role to raise questions and concerns.  However, that can only happen if the relationship and trust is developed through sustained contact and conversation even when things are going well.

Responsibilities

According to the LSE Academic Code:

  • All students have an academic mentor, to advise on academic matters, who should have the experience to undertake the role and with as much continuity as possible.

  • Students will be invited to meet with their academic mentor at least 2 times per term.

  • Staff teaching on LSE programmes will be available to students, through the office hour system, for an average of, at least, 35 hours throughout the academic year.

Specifically, your responsibilities as an academic mentor are to:

  1. Provide students with academic guidance and feedback on students’ progress and performance, and discuss any academic challenges they may experience;

  2. Provide pastoral guidance on non-academic issues and refer students, as necessary, to the appropriate support services within the School;

  3. Implement the provisions outlined in Inclusion Plans for students with long-term medical conditions, specific learning differences and/or disabilities in liaison with the School’s Disability and Wellbeing Service;

  4. Maintain regular contact with students through direct one-to-one meetings at least twice a term during Michaelmas and Lent term and once in Summer term and through regular email contact as needed;

  5. Comment on and provide general assessment of students’ progression on their termly class reports via LSE for You.

  6. Inform the department tutor and School of any students whose attendance and progress is not satisfactory.

You can find more information about the LSE Code of Good Conduct for Undergraduate Programmes available here.

Possible models of academic mentoring

You can meet with your academic mentees in either one-to-one settings or in group settings.

One-to-one mentoring sessions are particularly good for:

  • Setting up individual students’ goals
  • Providing individualised assessment feedback
  • Discussing any issues that are sensitive and/or require confidentiality

Group mentoring sessions are particularly good for:

  • Developing collaborative study skills
  • Debating current events as they relate to students’ studies
  • Encouraging peer feedback on research projects
  • Creating cohort cohesion

Mentoring sessions can be held in your office (and should be held there if you need to discuss confidential issues with your students), but they can also be held elsewhere.  You could consider one of the cafes around campus or taking a group to the Senior Common Room. By changing the location, students may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and discussing ideas in an informal setting. 

You could also consider taking a student on a one-to-one session for a walk around the Lincoln’s Inn Field Park. This is particularly useful when students are exploring ideas or trying to draw connections across their learning. For more timid students, this may help them feel less inhibited because of both the informal venue and because you are walking side-by-side.  At a slow pace, a lap around the park is around ten to fifteen minutes.

What to discuss in mentoring sessions

When meeting with academic mentees for the first time, it may be useful to work from a set of questions.  This will give students a chance to voice what they want from their academic studies and give you a chance to know your students better. If these answers are recorded on a document, then these answers can be revisited during the students’ time at LSE, be it later in the same academic year or in subsequent years.

We have provided students with a list of questions that they could answer and send to you ahead of meetings and you may wish to encourage them to do so. A chance to think, or explain key information, by email beforehand can be particularly valuable for some students. If you wish to encourage your students to do this, you could send them this set of questions, or a selection of your own. You could also, if you wished, send students your own answers to some of the questions to help build rapport early on in the relationship.

*Please note: You are under no obligation to answer these questions, especially those revolving around disclosing disabilities, long term illness, or responsibilities outside of LSE.

For specific ideas on questions to ask and/or discussions to have with your personal tutors, consider visiting our pages on supporting 1st year undergraduate, 2nd year undergraduate, final year undergraduate, or postgraduate taught students.  For ideas on questions to ask and / or discussions to have for specific areas of the student experience, visit our pages on supporting students’ studies, life, and future

During academic mentoring meetings, especially one-to-one meetings, students may disclose concerns about their mental health or incidents of harassment and / or bullying.  This happens because they know you and trust you as a point of contact.  Should this happen, please visit our pages on what to do, or, bearing in mind confidentiality, contact relevant colleagues such as the Student Wellbeing Service,  for further advice.