Mentor Expectations

The AAR program is an opportunity for students in grades 10 through 12 to investigate a topic of their own choosing through original research. Students are paired with an expert mentor based on their stated interests or field of study.

As a mentor, your role is to provide content expertise. You do not need to grade or evaluate student work. The most important part of mentoring is checking in with your students regularly to give feedback and answer their questions. It's very important to express the importance of asking questions and encourage them to explore the subject.

As students develop their projects, please give them examples of appropriate methods and techniques to address their chosen research questions. As applicable, point them to good resources for their exploration and research.

Teachers instruct students in how to conduct research, process data, and present results. Students meet with their teachers twice a week to get guidance on the research process.

More information is available in the course guide, which is posted on the AAR website under Resources > Student Resources.


As an AAR mentor, you will...

  • ...mentor 1-3 students, depending on the project(s).
  • ...sign the AAR & Innovation Mentor Agreement before corresponding with students.
  • ...serve as a content expert to support and facilitate students’ work.
  • ...supervise students’ work in lab, office, or other appropriate environments (as necessary).
  • ...create an atmosphere that empowers and encourages students to ask questions.
  • students’ progress and ensure each project is on track.
  • ...monitor students’ work and provide appropriate and timely feedback.
  • ...check in with the AAR Program Coordinator (as necessary).
  • ...spend approximately 40-50 total hours mentoring over the course of the school year (August through May), depending on the number of students.

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

PAUSD is requiring fingerprinting and DOJ background checks for AAR mentors, to protect both you and our students. This is a simple five-minute process, no appointment is needed, and AAR is happy to pay for this. 

All we need you to do is take three copies (one for one for them, one for us, and one for you to keep) of our fingerprinting form to your nearest live scan location. (The fingerprinting form will be sent to you when we begin processing mentor applications.) We typically use the UPS Store at the Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. If you are not located in California, you can get this done at the location nearest you and send us a copy of the receipt for reimbursement. (Just be sure to send us the results!) 

If you use our form, AAR will be billed for the service directly. If you have already done this for your employer or other agency, you can simply send us a copy of the results at

​Suggested Guidelines for Interacting with Students

The nature and frequency of your interactions with students will depend on the individual needs of the students and their projects, as well as the agreed-upon method of communication. The following guidelines are provided as a suggested baseline.

  • Check in with your students once per week via Skype, email, or phone.
  • Spend one hour per month meeting with your students in person, if applicable.
  • Communicate via email as necessary.
  • Introduce students to relevant materials for their chosen field of study (e.g., previously published research).
  • Attend the Opening Social and the Celebratory Showcase (if possible).
  • Stress the importance of asking questions. Do not make them feel inferior while they learn to formulate stronger and more focused questions.
  • Cite examples of the types of methods and techniques that can be used to address research questions.

Milestone Checklists

Students meet with their AAR teachers every week. The AAR teachers evaluate the students and them a final grade. As a mentor, you are serving primarily as a content-area guide.

Milestone 1: Background Research – Topic and Annotated Bibliography

  • submit AAR agreement forms
  • attend Opening Social if possible
  • establish best method of weekly communication with students
  • help students identify good sources of background research in their chosen topic (e.g., existing peer reviewed research and journal articles)
  • get to know students’ research interests and help them narrow down topic for research
  • encourage students to ask questions

Milestone 2: Introduction and Methodology – Project Proposal

  • check in with students weekly to answer any questions
  • help students refine their research question and its feasibility
  • assist students in their understanding of appropriate research methods
  • continue providing advice and guidance regarding valid sources for background research

Milestone 3: Execution Plan, IRB, and Ethical Research – Execution Plan

  • check in with students weekly to answer any questions
  • help students design reasonable execution plan that outlines goals and dates that can be used to measure progress
  • assist students in determining appropriate research methodologies
  • guide students in planning logistics of data collection and recording
  • provide input on survey, interview, and focus group questions (if appropriate)

Milestone 4: Data Collection and Findings – Data

  • check in with students weekly to answer any questions
  • support students as necessary in their data collection and organization
  • help students compile and summarize data

Milestone 5: Drawing Conclusions and Sharing Findings – Poster Presentation

  • check in with students weekly to answer any questions
  • help students draw conclusions and interpret findings
  • assist students as they create their research posters
  • provide guidance and strategies for students in preparation for their oral presentations
  • approve final poster

Milestone 6: Summative and Reflective Writing – Research Paper

  • check in with students to answer any final questions
  • attend Celebratory Showcase
  • approve final paper