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These are a few notes on peer mentoring, mainly based on the research of Roz Phillips. Her Stirling page Northampton page 1 Northampton page 2
Some (UK) universities have peer mentoring schemes, where the senior students have a personal (rather than a group) relationship with mentees, a bit like a personal tutor or advisor, but most of the content of the interaction is social: introducing new students to others, socialising with them, and some general orientation knowledge: basically like a tour guide. This makes new students feel welcome, enhances social integration, but also if they later experience a crisis, gives them a more experienced member of the university whom they already feel they know, which may be crucial in reducing the likelihood of dropping out. The indications are that this is a service many new students welcome as it addresses initial social anxieties, but for 90% of students contact is only needed for the first few weeks. For the remaining 10%, longer contact is valued, and for these, a mentor may be important in reducing the likelihood of dropping out if a crisis is experienced. On this view, then, the mass service is usually valued but is probably not critical; however it puts in place a relationship that could be crucial for vulnerable students, but could not be created later when this is known.
There are indications in the literature that schemes are more successful if:
There is as yet no strong evidence of peer mentoring having a marked effect e.g. reducing the dropout rate. However this may soon change, as increasing numbers of schemes give more opportunities for seeing a clear effect, and also as the first universities to adopt such schemes had low dropout rates already, giving less scope for marked effects. There are many indications suggesting they may be beneficial, and no reasons not to adopt them.
See her thesis abstract.
Phillips, R., Swanson, V. & Morgan-Klein, B. (2005). "Student Helping Students: The Effectiveness of Peer Mentoring in UK Higher Education" Proceedings of the British Psychological Society vol.13 no.2 pp.122
Phillips,R. (2006) "Research to Investigate Peer Mentoring in UK Higher Education" The Higher Education Academy; Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Network: Link no.15 p.16
Phillips,R.M. (2009) The Impact of Peer Mentoring in UK Higher Education PhD thesis, University of Stirling https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/dspace/handle/1893/2290 (URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/2290 )
Phillips, R., & Swanson, V. (under review) "The Utilization of Peer Mentors during the First Weeks at University" Mentoring and Tutoring
Phillips, R., & Swanson, V. (under review). "Peer Mentoring in Higher Education: A Controlled Comparative Evaluation" Higher Education
Phillips, R., Swanson, V., & Morgan-Klein, B. (in prep). "Peer- Mentoring Schemes in UK Higher Education: Availability and Effects on Retention"
Phillips, R., & Swanson, V. (in prep). "Peer Mentoring in Higher Education: The Mentors' Perspective"
Phillips, R., & Swanson, V. (in prep). "Attitudes towards the Introduction of a Peer Mentoring Scheme Within a Scottish University"
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