Urban FARMing in the School of Education: Faculty-Assisted Research Mentorship

I started FARM (faculty-assisted research mentorship) my second semester at Lehman College, as a way to extend classroom discussion with students and also develop students in their research skills. Interested students work directly with me to develop their research ideas and conduct a study of importance to them and their teaching. 

Students receive individual mentorship and are also nestled into a group of other student-researchers. FARM has become a place for students to both connect with each other, and also connect research and practice as they investigate research questions and then apply findings in their own classrooms.

Over the last two years, I have worked closely with three “crops”of student-researchers who developed their research abilities,  and then went on to mentor other students in developing a research idea, submitting an IRB, conducting a study, and writing a manuscipt.  Students discover their abilities in the group– they begin to see themselves as competent researchers, they develop their identity as educators more fully, and they support each other through the struggles of working on complex research questions. At the start, students are often anxious or overwhelmed by the prospect of conducting research. I scaffold the research mentorship process so that students first present their research findings by co-teaching a class with me, then independently presenting as a guest speaker in another graduate level course, and finally by preparing a full submission and presenting at a professional conference. Students are then asked to extend the process, and mentor incoming student-researchers further down the line. While FARM has produced several student-led research studies, one published manuscript for a student, one manuscript in preparation for two students working together, and two student-developed conference presentations awaiting review, it has produced many more significant accomplishments on a personal and professional level for all of us in the group.  We have built a shared space between faculty and student within a research community that supports and encourages, while sharing accountability and expertise.

FARM has been a really nice way to begin my own journey here at Lehman – alongside our students who are navigating their place in urban education while finding meaningful ways we can contribute together to the field.  It has also been a great way to get to know our students. To that end, I wish I could say that the greatest challenge of this group has been mentoring students in research methodology or statistics, but the enduring difficulty was actually agreeing on a name that signified who we were, and was also cool enough to embody the spirit of our Leham College student members. We eventually arrived at FARM this semester– because it not only described our purpose (faculty-assisted research mentorship) but it also signified the cultivating and growth that was taking place for students within the group.  In the process of naming ourselves, students’ original anxieties about research were replaced with words that signified growth and engagement.  It suggests that students’ hard work and participation in the group has yielded a harvest of competent researchers ready to do great things in today’s schools.