Protege Perception of Faculty Mentoring in India: An Exploratory Study.

Date01 July 2018
AuthorKumar, Payal

Higher Education Mentoring in India

With fierce competition and radical shifts in the job market landscape, brought in by trends such as disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence, it is becoming vital for higher education institutes (HEIs)to cultivate "job-capable graduates" (Munro, 2016). Student employability is increasingly being defined as going beyond mastering core technical skills to include practical intelligence such as the management of self and others (Knight & Yorke, 2004; Hill, Walkington & France, 2016).

In this backdrop it is a matter of concern that according to a recent report by Aspire Minds, nearly 80 per cent of engineering graduates in India are said to be unemployable (1). To address this concern, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) recently initiated workshops for faculty at engineering colleges across the country to prepare students for life skills and soft skills, apart from technical knowledge. In other words, greater importance is being placed upon a range of employability skills for students, rather than simply securing employment for them (Scott, 2014).

At an institutional level, there are a few examples of HEIs in India that are imparting not only technical and theoretical training to students, but soft skills and ethical leadership enhancement too by means of mentorship programs. The IIT Bombay's Student Mentorship program is one such example in which senior students guide juniors with a vision to inculcate 'the right attitude right'.

Not just engineering colleges, but business schools in India too are realizing the importance of developing students beyond the mentoring outcomes of enhancedstudent psychological strength and well-being (Khan, 2013). A study on student mentoring as a pedagogy in 19 Business Schools in Karnataka suggests that mentoring leads to enhancement of certain job-capable qualities amongst students like taking greater responsibility, a better capacity to plan and also greater perseverance (George & Mampilly, 2012).

While HEIs in India are recognizing the need for mentoring programs as a means for enhancing the job-readiness of students, these programs largely continue to be introduced in a top-down manner to fulfill certain mentoring objectives as defined by the educational institute. However, it is also important to look at the bottom-up approach, and explore what an ideal mentor and ideal mentoring process means for the student protege. For example, one student at a business school in Bangalore said in an interview that while the mentoring program was apparently robust, it would have been more meaningful had the proteges been sensitized about how to get most from the mentor (Kurian & Padode, 2018).

It is hoped that this exploratory study, asking proteges for their views on the ideal mentor and the ideal mentoring process in order to find underlying common dimensions, will lead to the implementation of more robust mentoring processes at HEIs in India. This exploratory study is important not only in the current changing landscape, but in the context of the diverse Indian job market too, which consists of a large Gen Y population who are known to have unique skills, aspirations and work values too (Rani & Samuel, 2016).

Furthermore, delving into the protege perspective is an appropriate fit to the current mentoring literature, which has seen a shift in the manner in which mentoring has been defined--from the traditional, hierarchical, top-down relationship-to more of a relational approach in which mentoring includes interdependent relationships that enable mutual learning and development (Fletcher & Ragins, 2007), as explained in the next section.

Mentoring as a Construct

The mentor is seen to be one who serves as a wise, responsible and trusted advisor who guides the protege's development (Miller, 2004). Whether we refer to mentoring by faculty of students in the education sector, or of managers mentoring subordinates in the workplace, mentoring relationships are characterized by feedback, advice, guidance, counsel and support provided by the mentor for both the protege's personal and professional development (Allen, Eby, O'Brien, & Lentz, 2008).

What mentoring scholarship on the education sector and in the workplace also has in common is that mentoring has been posited as a process of socialization in which mentors control the "gates of social reproduction" (Margolis & Romero, 2001: 81). They differ, however, in terms of the goal of mentoring, in that in academia the predominant goal is to develop the protege in terms of academic performance, better adjustment to college life (Jacobi, 1991) and also being better prepared for jobs; whereas in workplace mentoring a protege's development is linked closely to organizational goals, such as better performance, and is thus uniquely embedded within the career context (Ragins & Kram, 2007; Kumar, 2018). The two sub-constructs of psychosocial and instrumental mentoring come up time and again in the literature, from early research on academic mentoring of students (Chickering, 1969; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1980), to more mentoring of subordinates of by managers in the workplace (Hamlin & Sage, 2011).

However, the definition of mentoring in the workplace literature has recently evolved to also include the relational dimension in which reciprocity, trust and empathy are said to be the bedrock of strong mentoring relationships (Ragins & Verbos, 2007). Thus, mentoring has developed as a construct from a top-down relationship to one which is more dyadic in nature (Higgins & Kram, 2001), and which thus merits research on the protege perspective too, given differences in roles and the power equation with the mentor (Eby et al., 2008).

Exploratory Study

It is the research question that primarily drives the choice of methods used and a qualitative study is seen to be appropriate for exploratory studies given that there is scant literature in this area (Creswell, 2013). Using a sample of 22 students derived from one university in north India (N=12), and one Business School in South India (N=10), semi structured interviews were conducted to gauge the context and the meaning of the phenomenon under study. Qualitative research usually works with small groups of people, in which the samples are purposive (Miles & Huberman, 1994). BML Munjal University (BMU) was set up in 2014 as a not-for-profit initiative offering undergraduate and post-graduate courses in management and engineering disciplines. In tune with the changing market conditions, BMU's vision is to nurture responsible leaders who are skilled...

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