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Cathedrals Mission Group - Peer Learning Project 2017: Pastoral peer mentoring Canterbury Christ Church University

A Compendium of Case Studies has been produced as part of the joint Higher Education Academy / The Cathedrals Group / Leeds Trinity University project ‘Learning from Best Practice in Peer Learning and Mentoring across the Cathedrals Group’. It is intended to showcase and illuminate the rich range of practice within the group.

You can download the compendium on this page.

Each institutional participant within the project was invited to select one of the schemes / programmes in current operation that best illustrates their current practice. Although several institutions operate more than one scheme only one case study per institution was permitted. This is one such case study.

Nature and focus of scheme

Pastoral peer mentoring is an opt-in service open to all students at all levels of study. For late applicants it is an opt-out service. It is not linked to programmes. A mentor will support students with their day-to-day life at university from enrolment throughout their period of study. A mentor is there to answer general enquiries assist students with university systems and processes signpost students to other services available within the university facilitate discussions for students to talk about any challenges they may be facing and to share ideas with.

Scheme overview

The scheme is flexible and voluntary and has been running since 2014. Recruitment of mentors happens around October and January through formal application. Undergraduate applications must have successfully completed one year of study with us before applying but this is not a requirement for postgraduates. There is no interview process but students are required to attend a full days training following which the role is confirmed. Pastoral mentors are allocated up to five mentees at any one time. The mentoring can take place face-to-face or online. It provides an invaluable source of knowledge and experience from students who are willing to invest their time to support other students through their period of study. It ensures students have a link to the university at all times especially if they are not studying on campus or they are away on placement.

A pastoral mentor does not need to be studying the same programme as the student they support as they do not provide subject specific assistance. Any student who wishes to be put in contact with a peer mentor can email a central address and make the request. They will be matched with a mentor and the two put in contact with each other. Currently there are 70 active pastoral mentors.

All mentors have the opportunity to log on our volunteering database the hours that they spend in the role. They are invited to an annual award ceremony in recognition of their time. They can also sign up to the extracurricular Christ Church Extra Award which is then entered onto Section 6.1 of their HEAR on completion.

Key resource implications 

At Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) peer mentoring is located within Learning and Teaching Enhancement and overseen by the Head of Student Engagement. Peer mentors are voluntary roles so there are no costs associated with them. The major running cost is the salary of the Student Engagement Officer (Peer Mentoring) who also runs other peer-mentoring schemes and training. In addition marketing materials are produced for open days Faculty events etc. Funding is through the Access Agreement/Office for Fair Access (OFFA). Further funding could provide administrative support and thereby enable the SEO to focus on developments.

Training and development of mentors/mentees

The Student Engagement Officer (Peer Mentoring) is responsible for the development and training of mentors. The full day’s training is delivered face-to-face in a classroom setting and focuses on practical mentoring approaches and actions underpinned by theory. Sessions are student-centred and are developed to meet the needs of the particular participants. They are interactive and include skills development alongside the knowledge. Importantly the knowledge and awareness required to refer mentees on to appropriate specialist services is included in the training. There is no training for mentees but they do receive a handbook outlining the scheme and providing information about the role of the mentor and their obligations as a mentee.  Continuing mentors are invited to refresh their training by attending again the following year.

How the scheme engages and supports students 

The scheme is designed to provide benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. 
It consolidates the mentor’s knowledge of the university (and beyond) as they are often required to provide information for mentees and therefore need to be sure it is accurate. It provides a holistic approach to student life as it supports students’ emotional and physical health and wellbeing in addition to their academic development.

Feedback from mentors identifies the benefits as building strong relationships and developing their interpersonal skills. Feedback from mentees recognises that peer mentoring it provides them with a sense of belonging not feeling alone having someone to talk to and ask questions about anything without feeling silly. 

Unexpected benefits came from applying an opt-out rather than opt-in approach to providing late applicants with a mentor; out of the 56 students allocated a mentor 53 were still using the service a few months later hopefully impacting on the retention rate of this vulnerable group of students.

Evidence of value effectiveness and impact

Currently qualitative data is collected from mentors and mentees via a questionnaire.
Mentors said that being a mentor has:
  • enhanced their personal and inter-personal skills;
  • developed transferable skills for the workplace;
  • improved their employability;
  • improved their academic skills;
  • developed their self-esteem and confidence;
  • greatly increased their Christ Church experience.
Mentees said that having mentor has:
  • helped them feel supported while also gaining practical advice;
  • assisted their learning from the knowledge and experience of an another student;
  • widened their network of friends across the University;
  • increased their confidence in social and academic situations.
Future plans involve the collection of quantitative data using such characteristics as the POLAR3 Quintiles and progression withdrawals etc. alongside mentor recording of contacts as an indicator of mentee engagement.

Critical reflections 

Key challenges are:

  • personnel (financial) resources to grow the service;
  • staff engagement – getting support from programme teams to promote and engage with the service;
  • gathering data to show the impact of mentoring;
  • removing the stigma of mentoring as used for those who are struggling or underperforming;
  • student engagement in relation to mentee retention. 
Learning from Best Practice in Peer Learning and Mentoring across The Cathedrals Group - Compendium of Case Studies_0.pdf
Learning from Best Practice in Peer Learning and Mentoring across The Cathedrals Group - Compendium of Case Studies_0.pdf View Document

The materials published on this page were originally created by the Higher Education Academy.