Peer mentoring in College HE

Mentoring - Word Cloud

By Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood.

In this blog post Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood, Havering College of Further and Higher Education (Havering College) report on establishing a peer mentoring scheme for College HE (HE in FE) students.

With two local campuses, several satellite sites and outreach centres in the London Borough of Havering the college is the largest provider of College HE in London. In the current academic year (2017/18) over 400 learners are undertaking degree level study. Learners are drawn from a wide catchment area covering East London, Kent and Essex. Of these learners 39% are from disadvantaged areas and 23% progress internally from level 3 courses at the college. The college has a strong commitment to widening participation and student support, of which peer mentoring is one example. Peer mentoring not only benefits mentees, by providing support at a critical points in their learning journey; it also provides mentors with the opportunity to gain and develop a range of interpersonal skills .

The one-year peer mentoring pilot started in October 2017 and will end in June 2018. The rationale for the pilot was threefold. Firstly an increasing number of learner on levels 4, 5 and 6 of the foundation degree (FD) in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, were struggling with academic work. Secondly, with an increase in student numbers teachers were unable to provide individual support. Thirdly with a reduction in hours allocated for tutorial, support outside of the classroom was also reduced. The aims of the pilot study are to develop a peer scheme to support struggling learners and secondly, to evaluate the success of the scheme from the perspective of both mentees and mentors.

In the first 4 weeks of term, tutors on the FD in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, identified several learners across Levels 4 level, 5 and 6 who might benefit from being mentored. Students included those whose diagnostic assessments in English and maths revealed skills gaps; consistently attained low grades (<49%) and those perceived to lack academic confidence. A total of ten students volunteered to participate in the pilot study: five level 4 students as mentees and five level 5/6 students as peer mentors.

Mentors received a short training two hour training session on coaching and mentoring in to supplement written guidelines on participation and confidentiality. In recognition of this they received a certificate of attendance. During the pilot Mentors will be expected to provide regular blogs detailing their experiences to be posted on the college’s Moodle site. The mentors will be supported by six -monthly group meetings of one hour, facilitated by the researchers. This will be an opportunity for them to feedback on challenges and concerns as well as highlight successes.  Both mentors and mentees will also have the opportunity to meet privately with the researchers if necessary.

In addition to the mentors’ blog posts both mentors and mentees will be asked to provide feedback by completing a questionnaire at two points in time; December 2017 and June 2018. These self-completion questionnaires will be used to explore their experiences of the mentoring process to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of student support.

Dr Paul Demetriou-Crane and Lynsey Lapwood recently delivered a presentation:         ‘MKO – beyond Vygotsky -adult peer mentoring in HE at an FE college’ at a seminar jointly organised by Continuum and the Learning & Skills Research Network (LSRN) London & South East, which was hosted at UEL. A copy of their presentation can be downloaded by clicking on the link: Peer Mentoring

About Tony Hudson

Currently undertaking doctoral research at the University of East London focusing on the learning career and academic identity of Access HE teachers.
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