​​Teaching students how to learn through mentorship​

This story is written by Festus Mulakoli, from School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa


I am a Basic Science Instructor at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Nairobi. Apart from teaching microbiology and parasitology to Year One students at the school, I am also the 'in-charge' of the science laboratory.​

Concept of an Instructor As a Mentor​​

My teaching philosophy as a medical instructor is to model creative and bold scientific thinking strategies. Therefore, to me, students are future colleagues more than just being there as students.  I share my enthusiasm for their career development, which I do through formal teaching, using dynamic examples of what is currently happening in the medical field, mentorship, providing my students with ample opportunities to comprehend and institute changes at their workplace. I espouse a mentorship approach that is democratic and where ideas, reflections and knowledge are made deeper (Hultman and Sobel, 2013; Lauvas and Handal, 2015). Further, as a mentor teacher, I get my inspiration from a quote by Benjamin Franklin who said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

My approach to mentoring students to learn is meant to help them get actively involved in every step of the learning process. During the entire course, students have an opportunity to discuss issues using various platforms. This enables them to have a deep understanding of the subject matter. One example of such a platform is the discussion forums on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Here the students get an opportunity to share their reflections on what they are learning and how the learning is impacting them at their workplace. This helps students get empowered and take charge of their learning.  These opportunities and reflection on experiences help my students to become critical thinkers, an important component in their daily activities. and at the same time uplift their academic performance. This facilitates their learning better instead of only listening to me or reading textbooks. Mentorship is an example of a cooperative learning pedagogy and as I had indicated early my students are my future colleagues. The course delivery in itself is a collaboration between my students and I allow them to do reviews on a topic through group work which we later discuss during class tutorials and this makes learning fruitful, enjoyable and a continuous process. Of course. A mentoring approach to teaching comes with some challenges. For example, when the students join the university, they are used to being spoon-fed and so it comes as a cultural shock to them to take responsibility for their own learning.​​​​​

​I feel fortunate to teach medical microbiology and parasitology to nurses because my teaching through mentorship helps them immediately recognize the importance of this learning approach greatly and ​impacts on their academic performance in nursing education. Medical microbiology and parasitology as a course have difficult and complex concepts that sound abstract at the beginning. As an instructor, am expected to play an important role in mentoring professional nurses to be critical thinkers and helping them learn new concepts as well. Students learn a lot through being mentored by their instructor and this gives them the ability to realize their potential of being self-directed learners. Therefore, much of what students learn from observation is not detailed in the curricula. In a way, my mentorship help my students grow as people and set achievable goals, improves our relationship and makes them passionate about their studies.  ​​