Do Mentors Influence the Appearance and Content of Student Posters at Regional and National Conferences?

Article excerpt

Although mentoring is touted as a beneficial activity, supportive data are sparse. This study evaluated the influence of a mentor on five aspects of both the appearance and content of student posters presented at a regional and a national psychology convention. Mentored posters had significantly (p [is less than] .05) better content at both regional and national conventions and significantly (p [is less than] .05) better appearance than did nonmentored posters at regional conventions.

For decades mentors have supported and fostered the development of numerous students. In the current age of "networking and playing the game" the role of the mentor has come under scrutiny and appears to be changing. Clawson (1985) notes the changing role of the "modem mentor." Participants in his study rated the level of influence their mentors had in 14 aspects of life. His results indicate mentors no longer influence each of the life aspects equally. In fact, many mentors no longer serve as comprehensive role models.

Selecting the best mentor and/or insuring a good match between the mentor and protege is an area receiving sustained research attention. For example, Cesa and Fraser (1989) designed a system which allows graduate students to evaluate faculty in their role as mentors. In addition to the rating system, these authors offer advice for improving mentor-protege relationships. Likewise, T. Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, W. A. Cronan-Hillix, and Davidson (1986) examined students' views of the characteristics that constituted good and bad mentors, and the role that mentors play in the students' lives.

Despite these analyses and descriptions of the characteristics of the mentoring process and the effective mentor, little objective data demonstrate the positive influence of mentoring. To remedy this situation we examined the relation between quality of student posters presented at regional and national psychology conferences and whether the presenter(s) had a mentor.

Method

Participants

We rated 39 posters displayed in the Psi Chi session at the 1997 meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association and 24 posters displayed in the Psi Chi session at the 1997 meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Procedure

A two-part process of evaluation was used to rate all posters and the impact of mentorship. The first portion of the evaluation procedure rated the poster and the presenter using predetermined criteria in two categories. Each category measured five elements. Posters were awarded one point for each element possessed; therefore, the maximum score a poster could receive in any category was 5. The first category rated the poster on the basis of readability from 3' to 5', the distractibility of the font used, use of extras (e.g., Power Point), organization of the layout, and whether the poster was easily comprehended. The second category evaluated the content of the poster and included a consideration of the major premise, clear and appropriate methods, clear results, logical discussion, and whether the poster was flee of errors. Two researchers independently evaluated the posters on these two categories.

The second major element of evaluation concerned mentorship. A third researcher asked four predetermined questions of the poster presenter(s). The questions evaluated the level of contribution of a professor, from idea formulation to actual poster presentation. A final question ascertained whether the presenter(s) regarded this professor as their mentor. …

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