STEM Program Evaluation Lab Week: Tips from Undergraduate Students for Mentoring Undergrad Lab Assistants by Chandni Lal, Caraline Malloy, Aundrea Smith, Annaia Ndjoli, Charles J. Rouse, and Myranda Cook

Chandni Lal
Chandni Lal

We are Chandni Lal, Caraline Malloy, Aundrea Smith, Annaia Ndjoli, Charles J. Rouse, and Myranda Cook of the STEM Program Evaluation Lab (SPEL). We are UNC Greensboro psychology undergraduate students who work with graduate students and faculty on lab tasks such as data collection and coding, project presentations, and have discussions regarding the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion within the evaluation process. Working in this lab has provided professional development and expanded knowledge and skills that will be useful in our future careers, including how to best handle the special challenges and demands of working as an undergraduate research assistant. We offer tips for how to address issues that impact undergraduate researchers.

Caraline Malloy
Caraline Malloy

Communication 

As undergraduates working with graduate students, we were initially overwhelmed because we did not know what to expect. However, we soon figured out that the graduate students are here to help. Once these barriers were minimalized, the connection building began!

Annaia Ndjoli
Annaia Ndjoli

Hot Tips:

Charles J. Rouse
Charles J. Rouse
  • Creating a comfortable space between graduate and undergraduate students is crucial. Rules and expectations may help to establish a common ground.
  • Always be open to answer questions to help undergraduates understand at a deeper level since this may be their first time working with graduate students.
  • Communication is key for successful teamwork. As undergraduates, we once struggled with understanding terminology used by faculty mentors and graduate students. It is important to recognize that undergraduates are at a lower level of understanding than you.
  • Confirm with the undergraduates that everything was understood and no clarification is needed. Some undergraduates may be nervous or overwhelmed to ask.
Myranda Cook
Myranda Cook

Team Dynamics

Each team has a unique structure and dynamic. In strong teams, each member has a role to play. These roles are properly communicated and respected on the basis of individual strengths and weaknesses. To have the most effective team, you must recognize the weakness of your team and yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to be vocal about your weaknesses. In some cases, it can help determine who might be best for a particular task; in others, it provides you with an opportunity to get the necessary training to better that skill(s).

Hot Tip:

  • Roles can be hard to navigate for an undergraduate student. Helping a student to establish what their strengths and weaknesses are and understanding it’s okay to verbalize them can assist them with finding their place in the lab and getting the training they need.

Being a part of a team depends on being a “team player.” This is in part a result of effective collaboration. Within teams it is very important to discuss what needs to get done, how it needs to be done, and what you can do to assist. As a group, time should be dedicated to creating a plan of action and designating roles. Once roles and tasks are established, you must keep in mind the basic mission of a team: accomplishing the shared goal. This goal cannot be achieved without your efforts. Thus, you should strive to reach your quotas. In cases that you do not, share this with your team! It is much easier to communicate difficulties and to re-plan than it is to add to another member’s workload at the last minute.

Hot Tip:

  • Check in on your mentee/student midweek just to see what they’ve done so far. Doing this might push them to start working earlier in the week instead of cramming on the due date so that goals can be achieved in an organized fashion.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting STEM Program Evaluation Lab Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from evaluators working in this lab. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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