Enhancing the first year experience - longitudinal perspectives on a peer mentoring scheme

Year: 2007

Author: Heirdsfield, Ann, Walker, Sue, Walsh, Kerryann

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Research suggests that the first six weeks in higher education are critical for student adjustment and subsequent success and that student social networks and support are key factors in preventing student attrition. Peer mentoring programs provide an avenue for new students to be supported by more experienced mentor students to make social connections with other new students. This paper reports on the development of a peer mentoring program aimed at supporting first-year students in their transition into university life. In 2004, a targeted group of first-year students were invited to participate in an integrated and contextualised peer mentoring program. Mentors were selected from more senior (third and fourth year) students who were trained in mentoring. In subsequent years, the program has expanded to include all first-year students. It is self sustaining and cost effective. Mentees report significant gains in social and academic outcomes as a result of their participation. Mentors continue to be selected from third and fourth year students; however, these students now have the opportunity to have their contribution recognised as part of assessment within an advanced core unit. Benefits for both mentors and mentees are discussed.