Reeves, Carla, Kiteley, Robin J., Spall, Kirsty and Flint, Louise (2018) Working with Students as Partners: Developing Peer Mentoring to Enhance the Undergraduate Student Experience. In: Mentorship, Leadership and Research: Their Place within the Social Science Curriculum. Springer, New York. ISBN 978-3319954462

Capturing the power of student peers to enhance the student experience and higher education (HE) learning environment, as well as provide skills development opportunities, has a centuries long history (Colvin and Ashman, 2010). However, recent changes in the HE sector (including changes to financing students resulting in growing financial pressures, and the teaching excellence framework emphasising metrics measuring students’ satisfaction with a course and their outcomes) means ‘peer mentoring’ and ‘peer assisted learning’ schemes have grown as the holistic context of higher education becomes increasingly understood as fundamentally significant to students’ learning experience (Lindley, McCall and Abu-Arab, 2013; Mavrinac, 2005). Recent work has pointed to the contemporary imperative for universities to work with students to re-imagine and re-develop all aspects of the student learning experience in a spirit of collaboration, co-operation and partnership (Bryson, 2014; HEA, 2014; Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014; Thomas et al., 2017). In this chapter we focus on how such an approach was applied to the development of a peer mentor scheme for new undergraduate students studying within the social sciences. Such mentoring programmes have been linked to higher achievement outcomes as well as retention and student inclusivity within diverse populations (Binder, Schreir, Kühnen, and Kedzior, 2013; Chester, Burton, Xenos and Elgar, 2013).

The scheme, though initiated by staff and institutional-wide strategy, was developed in collaboration with the students who volunteered to take part, and who took on the role of ‘student expert’. This collaborative development was intended to ensure that the scheme would achieve the aims of enhancing the student learning experience, support an inclusive and collaborative learning culture, provide empowerment opportunities, support gaining employability skills, and develop a sustainable peer mentoring culture. The first year of the initiative was also qualitatively evaluated by the mentors and mentees, with this research project being co-designed and researched with the peer mentors. Through this process peer mentors developed tools to aid the establishment, implementation and maintenance of collaborative peer mentoring schemes which can be incorporated into a model to support the development of such future schemes.

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