The Twelve-Strand Systemic Mentoring Model. AFRICA’s BRAIN BANK®
The following twelve strand systemic mentoring model is derived in part from the Ten Strand Systemic Mentoring Model of the Timbuktu Academy (1). It deliberately entails a weaving of the following “overlapping” strands. [The implementation of its model and related results earned the Timbuktu Academy the 2002 US Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM mentoring [US=PAESMEM]. (1) “Basic and Advanced Research Training for the New Millennium: The Model of the Timbuktu Academy.” D. Bagayoko, R. Bobba, E. L. Kelley, and S. Hasan. Journal of Materials Education, Vol. 24 (1-3), Pages 177-184, 2002.
Financial Literacy and Support – are acquired through efforts of both the mentee and the mentor. Support is to be sought from diverse sources. The sustainability of support rests in part on the diversification of the sources. The aim is for the mentee to have adequate support in order to focus on learning, research, and related activities on a full-time basis: The proper execution of the remaining strands depends on this scenario.
The sources of financial support vary greatly from one country to the next. However, up to the end of high school, most government provide resources to secondary education. In some countries, not only is secondary education free of charges, but also the student received monthly stipend for subsistence. Of course, there ae private, secondary schools in most countries. They generally have selective admission and can cost far more than the average citizen can afford. Private and philanthropic organizations, including major foundations, are also sources of support for education. Finding the right sources and applying on time and professionally are parts of the challenge for getting financial support.
Comprehensive, Scientific Advisement – The proper sequencing of courses is treated with the utmost care. Indeed, the internal rigidity (or taxonomic structure) of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) disciplines requires this approach. Empowering the learner is a central aim of mentoring. This empowerment includes grasping the Power Law of Human Performance and its extension, the Law of Human Performance (ILP); and knowing a few time-tested facts and practices (first-time memory retention curve, the value of effective study groups, a problem-solving paradigm, the difference between lacking a background material and not being “smart.”). New and emerging social media and related platforms should be integrated into this advisement and support system for optimal results. These platforms include WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc., for social media, and virtual platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, etc.
The taxonomic structure of courses and of knowledge and skills in a given course partly underscores the crucial importance of this strand. Colleges re quire that some courses be taken in a specific sequence (English 110 and English 111). And, some courses cannot substitute for others, with a smaller number, due to the nature and scope of their respective contents. Hist 101 and Hist 102 can generally not be replaced by History courses in the 200, 300, or 400 categories. Some students collect grades of F for not knowing about the course withdrawal option.
A host of listening, speaking, reading, writing and related activities are aimed at developing the mastery of the applicable language (English), a vehicle of thought. This activity entails vigorous exposure to technical communication as provided for in “Writing for Success” (1998, McGraw-Hill Companies, pp. 135-176 and pp. 212-215), beyond regular English course work. Again, the tool of asynchronous interactions noted above should be utilized in aspect of the communication skill enhancement.
Unbeknown to some, communication is a highly sophisticated activity whose mastery – in speaking or writing – requires extensive practice of the right kind! Indeed, from 1980 to 2020, inner city minority children in America extensively practice, unknowingly, a broken English. As per the law of human performance, it takes rigorous practices of the current English grammar and usage. Oh, some uninformed observers downgrade these students, on the scale of smartness, based on their improper usage of English.
Tutoring – Tutoring by faculty members and particularly by peers will continue to be available to the students or scholars who need it. (In fact, regular tutoring areas are often taken over by self-organized study groups!) Tutoring is for excellence, not for remediation; it is to address holes in a background and to reinforce known essentials; the need for it is not a sign of any lack of intrinsic smartness, so says the Power Law of Human Performance, but rather a wise recognition of the internal rigidity of STEM fields. Incidentally, tutoring by advanced scholars also promotes their communication skills and their sense of self-worth, while they review materials (so says the PLHP and the LHP)!
As noted above, tutoring may be needed for the acquisition or reinforcement of skills or knowledge that may have been lacking from a student’s background. It is for mastery and not for remediation – for those who understand the law of human performance. Tutoring should also train in meta-learning or system-learning: a learning in which topics or subjects are linked or bunched as much as possible – as opposed to memorizing isolated facts. The problem=solving paradigm is to be covered in some tutoring sessions.
Generic research activities – Rigorous literature searches are conducted by the scholars on several subjects. They master sophisticated search algorithms, electronic searches, and related iterations. The scientific literature is an unlimited source of research questions! Refereed literature is the standard for STEM disciplines. Discussions of the fine structures of the scientific method, critical thinking, and of creative thinking are part of this discourse.
Believe it or not, research consists of posing questions and searching for their answers. It is within the reach of everyone! The research questions can vary enormously with the level of education or training of the researcher in specific areas. Books, reference manuals, professional journals, etc., are the sources for most questions one may ask. At the same time, this literature contains answers a good researcher needs to make progress. Let us underscore here that thorough reading, including footnotes and others, is the hall mark of a seasoned researcher.
Specific research project execution by the scholars in our mentoring programs – Faculty members and researchers at federal and industrial laboratories serve as research supervisors and mentors during the summer. According to the Law of Human Performance, research experiences should prepare for graduate studies and for productive research careers. Seeking summer research opportunities on-line, at conferences, and through visits to various laboratories and agencies is one requirement for a mentoring program. Assisting scholars to apply vigorously and professionally for these opportunities and maintaining adequate files on each scholar, partly for the purpose of writing substantial (as opposed to general and vague) recommendations, are some tasks for mentors to accomplish.
As per the las of human performance, researchers are made, not born. Indeed, the manipulation of intricate concepts, laws, or formulas, on the one hand, and the running of large and small instrumentation are learning through practice. As a matter of fact, before the advent of the printing press, apprenticeship was the process by which artists, architect, engineers, scientists, and philosophers learned and mastered their trades. The mere size and sophistication of some instruments can be intimidating. Knowing the law of human performance tells us that to run these instruments masterfully only require practice.
Development of a professional culture – Every scholar is exposed to discussions that explore the dimensions of ethics in science. Immersion in a professional culture demands regular reading of technical journals and appropriate magazines of professional societies, conference attendance, and collaboration with others. Current awareness needs no explanation in an era of information explosion. Professional practices and standards are set and seen in publications, regular (weekly) seminars, and at conferences. As for the need for and value of collaboration, we simply assert that not one individual has built or operated a nuclear submarine, an aircraft carrier, or a space shuttle alone!
A strict adherence to facts and to the truth is the first requirement for a true scientist, engineer, mathematician, or philosopher. A corollary of this adherence is a flawless ethical conduct. One reason for corroboration in research stems from the great waste of time and efforts based on wrong statements in the literature. Research is generally not done in isolation – from peers and from the literature! Conference participation facilitate networking with one’s peers and others.
Appropriation of Emerging Computer and Technological Skills – The mastery of productivity tools, including word-processing, spreadsheets, database, graphics, other applications, and scientific programming (C++, FORTRAN, etc.) are needed. Electronic communication and productive surfing of the web are needed by the middle of the first semester. Advanced exposure has to include a programming language. (The need for these activities stems from practices in the environments to which the students are destined, i.e., graduate schools and the global, competitive market). Some of the skills envisioned here are related to CAMSS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social, and Security).
The overriding point of this strand is the need for life-long learning, given the implacable developments of knowledge, skills, product, and instrumentation at an increasing rate! One can make a picture of this assertion by comparing the pre- (1950 -1970 to the post Internet (1990- and beyond) world.
Monitoring –facilitated by the mentoring portfolios of scholars. Without this portfolio, a mentoring cannot be comprehensive or systemic as we now understand it. With monitoring, throughout the semester, potential problems are avoided before they become permanent Fs. Preventive measures include concentrated efforts, extra-tutoring, and the last resort, dropping a course. The former two steps are best when they are taken as early as possible. The latter step is not an available option past a certain date after mid-term! The monitoring of research participation and performance is critical for another reason: the development or reinforcement of non-cognitive skills that undergird success (self-discipline, hard work, assiduity, working well with others, etc.). Monitoring and evaluation are part of a professional environment, without them, who will know what a beautiful job a scholar has done! As such, blind peer assessments and electronic performance evaluation can enhance the monitoring process.
Guidance to Graduate School – It begins in the freshman year (or earlier) and includes research experiences, conference attendance, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation starting the freshman year, and opportunities for financial support for graduate studies! Placement in graduate programs follows steps similar to those for summer placement. The number and the extent of the opportunities depend on the cumulative grade point average for the BS degree, the courses taken, research experiences and results, and the GRE score. In addition, graduate preparation will include an understanding of the non-academic factors that are critical to success in graduate school (study habits, self-discipline, hard work, etc.). Emphasis will be placed on the establishment of a seamless transition to graduate schools.
Leadership Development by Design
Leadership rests in part on the correct processing of information, particularly in an age where falsehood is easily spread through the Web. Ensuring the accuracy, the precision, and the completeness of information is necessary before acting on it. With this correct information processing ability, sound judgment, good character, and high work ethics are three pillars of leadership to be honed by design. The role of the Strand on communication ability is crucial in enabling leadership.
The Development of Civic Virtue. Civic virtue entails the understanding of the role of an individual in the success of society. As such, it involves the dedication of individuals to the common welfare of society.