Peer mentoring and management students

Year: 1994

Author: Sutcliffe, Paul, Barrett, Mary, Smith, Barry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Management educators are confronted with a number of problems in attempting to provide students with an understanding of the management process. The students experience the same general problems as any other students. There are, however, a number of problems experienced particularly by management students, or more acutely by them, such as, for example, the difficulties associated with attempts to make sense of complex management and organisational processes (especially for those who lack experience in the workplace), or the apparent "fuzziness" of many of the concepts that abound to make sense of them, or its multi-disciplinarity.

In an attempt to address some of these problems a peer mentoring scheme was devised. The scheme was based, in part, upon a series of experiments conducted in American universities using supplemental instruction techniques. Later year high-achieving students were trained to act as peer mentors to commencing students. The scheme is analogous to those used in many organisations to induct, guide and develop new managerial employees.

The purpose of the study was to test whether this approach might help commencing students develop an improved understanding of, and greater confidence in regard to, their study of management and to enhance their adjustment to university life. Our research, supported by a Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching (CAUT) grant, is ongoing. This paper presents some of our preliminary findings. It is apparent that peer mentoring does form the basis of a successful strategy for overcoming the problems experienced by commencing and organisationally inexperienced management students. Further, the scheme has several other positive advantages for both mentors and mentees. These are outlined in the paper.