Mentorship as a Model for Academic Staff Competence and Culture Development

Rune Hjelsvold, Terje Stafseng

Academic competence and dedication are key components in cultivating an effective learning culture. However, non-orchestrated teaching, research, and administrative obligations limit the capabilities of faculty members to keep up with technological progressions and latest developments in their fields. Moreover, only a few studies have shown how teaching faculty, collectively and supported by higher management support, successfully contribute to the development of a learning culture.

This article studies the long-term effect of a three-year old project involving teaching faculty of five different bachelor programs in computer science. Faculty management initiated the process by inviting an expert from the software industry to work with faculty members to identify skills and knowledge, which were important in computer science practice, but were not properly addressed in the curricula. Higher management and faculty jointly decided to address these discrepancies by launching a development process within the department where selected faculty worked together as a development team – under the mentorship of two senior software architects/developers from the industry. The faculty team used the tools and methodologies of the industry and thereby itself acquired knowledge and skills that were missing from the studies at that time. Concepts relevant to two-way knowledge communication between academia and industry is elaborated upon in this poster.

Empirically, in-depth interviews with six participating teaching staff over a period of three years after the project were conducted. The study also took into consideration curricula changes, which were implemented during this three-year period. The aim of the study was to identify the long-term effects on the staff culture, on the curricula, and on the relationship between university and industry. Major effects on the culture were that the teaching staff got to know each other better and during the project developed a common platform for further collaboration and development. Major effects on the curricula were improved methodological alignments with current practices in the industry as well as changes that solidified the red thread that goes through the curricula. Major effects on the university-industry relationship was improved awareness of how academia and industry may complement each other and of what is needed to keep academia well-aligned with state-of-the-art in the industry.

Faculty members considered management support and mentorship from industry as important for the success of the project. Major challenges were to find time for everyone to participate and to deal with large differences in prior experience concerning the use of tools and methods.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email