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
The peer mentoring scheme is primarily designed to offer peer-to-peer support for level four students. The programme is institution-wide and is available pre-arrival post A-Level results to all level four students. Mentors are current level five and six students. Mentoring support is framed by four key themes: social money living and study. There are also subsets of activity including mature student mentoring support for disabled students and support for commuting students. We are currently launching postgraduate research mentoring.
The University of Chester peer mentoring scheme operates on an annual cycle. Mentors are recruited between January and April to support the next level four intake. Mentoring is available to new students as soon as they have accepted their firm offer. This is usually August/September. There is no set end-date to a mentoring relationship.
There are no links to academic credit. Student mentors are rewarded with volunteering hours and points for Chester’s employability award.
Key resource implications
The scheme is centrally co-ordinated in Student Support and Guidance by a Project Officer and is supported by one or two administrative staff. All staff have other functions within their role that relate to other mentoring schemes and/or wider Student Support and Guidance work. The staffing budget is OFFA committed expenditure. The approximate time spent working on the scheme is 0.5FTE. An annual activity budget of £7 000 is assigned to support the promotion and delivery of the scheme. A bespoke database has been built in-house to support administrative processes.
Training and development of mentors/mentees
Mentor training is conducted face-to-face in two-hour workshops. Workshops are scheduled and advertised when mentor recruitment opens in January of each year. For example last year nine training sessions were arranged. The sessions are delivered by two members of staff. Mentor training covers the following topics:
- What is mentoring?;
- mentee issues;
- university support services;
- safeguarding and confidentiality;
- ‘your’ role as a mentor.
Training is designed to be interactive and the purpose of the workshops is to ensure that mentors feel comfortable answering a variety of questions and addressing a variety of basic challenges facing new students. Critical to this is knowing where and when to refer a mentee for professional support.
Ongoing support is provided to mentors by the University’s dedicated mentoring staff. Follow-ups are made with mentors and mentees by email but the majority of ongoing support is ad hoc.
For 2016-17 we have just launched and piloted online training via the Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE). The online training will enable students from all campuses and remote sites to be able to be trained as mentors. It will increase the sustainability of the programme as it grows removing the need for face-to-face training and associated resourcing costs. Online training takes approximately one hour and is split into ‘mini-modules’ each of which concludes with a short knowledge test. The online training platform has additional training available to students on topics including:
- commuting student mentoring;
- disabled student mentoring;
- mature student mentoring;
- postgraduate research student mentoring.
How the scheme engages and supports students
Peer mentoring aims to engage students with their first year experience while developing resilience wellbeing and a sense of belonging. Please see data in the section below for the observed impact.
Evidence of value effectiveness and impact
KPI 1: Student demographics are monitored for the purpose of access agreement reporting. The mentor/mentee demographics in 2015-16 were:
KPI 2: Mentee retention and progression
KPI 3: Self-perception of impact
Based on a 35% response rate from 2015-16 mentees the following impact on the first year experience was recorded:
The area in which having a mentor was considered most helpful was settling into university. Students who did not actually have a concern in a particular area still found a mentor helpful. For example a student may have stated that they did not feel isolated in University yet they still found a mentor helpful in getting them to interact with other students.
KPI 4: Mentee wellbeing
Based on a 35% response rate from 2015-16 mentees the following impact on mentee wellbeing was recorded:
The questions and responses in this graph relate to the ‘five steps to wellbeing’ as defined in the Student Support and Guidance (University of Chester) well-being project:
- Connect with other people
- Be active
- Take notice of the world around you
- Keep learning
- Give to others
It is a promising result that a number of mentees feel that having a mentor has encouraged them to engage in activity that could impact positively on their well-being.
KPI 5: Mentor skills development
Based on a 36% response rate the following impact on 2015-16 mentors was recorded:
Mentors listed many skills that they felt they have developed throughout the scheme. Communication was the skill that most mentors felt had improved since starting the scheme particularly written communication. Organisation skills were also highlighted in a number of responses as well as self-confidence with mentors stating that these had all improved as a result of mentoring.
The key challenge has been the recruitment of mentees. To ensure that the scheme grows we have worked in partnership with the University’s marketing and recruitment team to embed peer mentoring in pre-application and post-offer communications to all prospective level four students. We have also invested in an infographic video and are currently employing a student to work on promoting the scheme. To date there has been a 60% increase in uptake from year one to year two of the scheme.
We are currently exploring a number of improvements to the peer mentoring scheme. However a key focus is the engagement of academic colleagues in terms of them promoting peer mentoring to their students and referring risk students into the scheme. The scheme will also benefit from academic staff receiving discipline specific and overall impact data from the scheme. This is currently in development.
Advice to new starters
As with any mentoring scheme it is important to design the programme structure of operations and monitoring around the intended outcomes. Therefore the advice to new starters would be ensure that you are clear about what you want to achieve before starting. The approach to achieve these results can then be formulated.
At the University of Chester we have carefully considered the marketing position of this scheme – ensuring that it is seen as proactive rather than remedial. The aim has been to normalise peer mentoring among the student population.