Posted on Saturday Oct 06, 2007
Earlier I didn't emphasize much on research group spirit. Recently I realized its importance and tried some measures to promote research group spirit.
I found that UIUC's Prof. Jiawei Han's several measures in his data mining research group could be valuable to borrow. I borrowed them recently in my group.
1. Allow students to volunteer to take on some services in the group. In the past, I (as the advisor) took on most of the services in the group including maintaining the group web pages, coordinating the group meetings, etc. Then students might feel like being managed without feeling to own the research group. In addition, I am too busy in doing these types of things and the students don't learn how to organize things or manage things: an important skill in their future career.
In the research group, early this semester I asked students to volunteer to take on various roles in the group:
*. Group Webmaster (news, group Web page, pictures, etc)
*. Group meeting coordinator
*. Server system administrator
*. Industry/visitor coordinator
*. Conference and journal review coordinator
*. Research proposal coordinator
*. Social activity coordinator
I found this mechanism works pretty well. For example, recently when a visitor from industry gave a guest lecture in my course when I was out of town, I asked the industry/visitor coordinator to organize student meetings with the visitor by introducing our research and doing demo; the whole process was organized by the coordinator with help from other students. The process went well and the students can also improve their independent skills: when the advisor is not around (in the future after they graduate, their advisor won't be around!), they can still successfully carry out things.
But I still need to figure out a way to encourage students to send emails in our group mailing list, whose emails are primarily sent by myself.
2. Acknowledge and honor those students who made great achievements in research so that these students can feel being recognized and other students can learn from these students and try to catch up. Jiawei Han's group honors the best-performing students each semester after students submit their research performance summary for the semester. Recently our research group also held voting among students (each one vote) and myself (with two votes, as suggested by one student, saying that my judgment would be more comprehensive). In the end, we voted one golden award winner and two silver award winner (with the same number of votes).
3. Besides borrowing Jiawei Han's measures, I also tried to promote peer support among the students in the group. Earlier the whole group activities centered around me, including reviewing their paper drafts, giving feedback on their research, etc. I would hope to set up a peer support system so that students can help each other and learn from doing so. Since some time ago I encouraged students to do proof reading each other's papers, and help each other. I will think of more other measures in promoting peer support.
4. As a routine practice in many research groups, asking students to present their own work or other related work by other researchers is quite valuable. Earlier I used the group meeting time slots to go round-table debriefing and I found it not that worthwhile in spending time. Nowadays, instead, in each group meeting, each student makes a presentation and then other students and I give feedback either on the content or presentation skills. Again, in this way, the group meetings shift from being dominated or driven by myself to being managed by students themselves.
I will think of more other measures in promoting peer support and group spirit. If you have any comments, you are welcome to discuss here.