The ABCs of Mentoring

As an increasingly senior (i.e., “older”) faculty member, professional development efforts–whether my own or those intended for others — occupy more of my time and attention than they used to. People here began a more formalized mentoring program for junior faculty about a year ago, and recently I was one of the people called upon to dispense wisdom about teaching to some of our recent hires.

Instead of just talking at them, I decided to demonstrate some teaching via active learning by using Simon’s ABC exercise: I asked the mentees to write down on Post-It notes what they wanted to abandon, begin, and continue about their own teaching and then stick their notes on the wall. Here is a compilation of the results:


  • Lecturing: for too long, information dumping, speaking too fast because of nervousness, standing behind the podium for the entire class.
  • Lengthy Powerpoints.
  • Showing frustration or being defensive with students.


  • More class discussion and inclusive conversations.
  • Exploring concepts more deeply.
  • Involving students in course content creation.
  • Flipping the classroom: some specific activities, how to do it, ways to experiment.
  • More group work.
  • Learning students’ names.
  • Building a teaching portfolio
  • Bringing current research into classroom.


  • Engaging students through constant questioning.
  • Following up on students’ work very closely.
  • Being available to students out of class.
  • Including licensing exam-type questions in lectures
  • Daily quizzes and small group discussions.
  • Being enthusiastic and encouraging in the classroom.

The whole process took less than ten minutes, generated a bit of discussion after the formal program had concluded, and let mentees know that many of their experiences were shared. The exercise also had the side benefit of generating data on topics of interest for a future mentoring event. In sum, it worked well.

Some of our other past posts on different applications of the ABC exercise are: