Part of the rationale behind taking a peer assisted learning approach to our mentoring programme this year was to offer additional support to mentors and mentees through having set sessions when academic staff could be present. In the past mentors and mentees have arranged their own time to meet and this has led to some very positive partnerships, some partnerships which never really got off the ground and some incidents when the ethos of a mentoring relationship has been lost along the way.
For this project it was hoped that the mentors would feel they could offer additional support beyond the arranged sessions within a safe context but this was not an organised part of the project.
In the past week an opportunity arose when an issue of timetabling meant a group of first year students found themselves in a classroom without a tutor or organised activity to complete. One of our second year mentors was there and within her role as a student mentor decided to lead the group through a discussion on the modules assessment items, which had been introduced the previous week, whilst awaiting confirmation from academic staff about session content.
Demonstrating that she feels comfortable in her role as a student mentor and has developed skills and confidence in being able to initiate and lead group discussion outside of the organised activity for the project. This event also demonstrates the value of having student mentors who can lead their peers in academic activity for the programme.
It would have been good to have captured some of the thoughts from the first students who were there and maybe that is something we can factor into the data gathering for the project, it would be great to know if being able to chat assessments over with peers rather than tutors offers students additional benefits. There maybe questions they do not feel confident asking in front of a tutor or the student mentor may have been able to offer an explanation of the activity which is more applicable to the students than tutors can offer. Conversely it may have negative implications with incorrect information being given but if student mentors were integrated into offering assignment support as part of their role this could be mitigated through the developing of their skills in deciphering briefs which leads us nicely onto…
Our next session, session 3, which will focus on assessments; understanding assignment briefs, using our online system to gather the relevant data to complete work and issues of plagiarism.