Aston University in Birmingham has become the lead institution in a £193,000 Learning and Teaching research project focusing on the role of peer mentoring programmes in improving student retention and success. The project, which includes partners Bangor, Liverpool Hope, London Metropolitan, Oxford Brookes, and Sheffield Universities in the UK and York University in Canada, will run for three years.
Professor Alison Halstead, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching Innovation at Aston said: ‘I am delighted that our newly formed research team have had this success, peer mentoring is one of the secrets of our widening participation success and the sector has much to learn from the outcomes of this research.’
There are many forms of mentoring, tutoring and peer-assisted learning in universities, all with their own merits. This research project provides a unique opportunity to explore the contribution of peer mentoring to retention and success.
The new research project will look at the effectiveness of different schemes in universities, with a particular focus on the role of students in supporting their peers. It will also look at schemes which target students that may be at a higher risk of dropping out (for example mature and first generation learners).
Aston University already has three years experience of peer mentoring and runs a well-received scheme in which 764 students have participated so far (360 mentors and 404 mentees). Students who take part receive full training and find that the transferable skills they learn whilst mentoring are valued by employers when they graduate. In 2007, the University launched an academic peer mentoring programme which aims to help students develop high quality writing and study skills. Aston also has an eight year history of undergraduate mentoring in schools as part of its well-respected outreach and widening participation programme.
Dr. Robin Clark, Head of Learning and Teaching Research, is leading the project at Aston with Dr Jane Andrews, Mandy Ingleby and Baljit Gill. All the researchers are based in the Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice www.aston/clipp.ac.uk will be working closely with researchers within the partner institutions.
Mandy Ingleby, who is CLIPP’s Strategic Adviser for Learner Enhancement and a member of the research team said: 'The Pathways to Success Through Peer Mentoring research project provides an excellent opportunity to review different models of student-to-student interaction and their contribution to student engagement, retention and success. The diversity and experience of the partnership is a key strength of the project.’
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Notes for editors:
1. The £193K project is funded by HEFCE and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
2. Summaries of other university schemes involved in the research project:
Currently there are Peer Guides in every academic school working with new students. In September 2007, Bangor had 415 trained Peer Guides actively working with an intake of approximately 2000 new students.
Liverpool Hope University:
One-to-one mentoring programmes delivered by trained undergraduates support academic achievement and the transition between key stages as well as promoting lifelong learning. There are also schemes addressing the student experience of writing for assessment.
London Metropolitan University:
Student Writing Mentors is a key dimension of the Write Now CETL project which seeks to enhance academic writing. Since 2006 11 writing mentors have delivered 1250 hour-long one-to-one tutorials with students across all disciplines of the University.
Oxford Brookes University:
The School of Social Sciences and Law provides peer support in two ways. Student guiders help new students through the induction process and speak to students and parents on open days and student Representatives represent students in their field at school and university level meetings.
Sheffield has been running a mentoring scheme since the 2000/01 academic year to target students within specific departments (mature students in law/female students in engineering). The scheme focuses on the transition of undergraduate students into university and their continuing experience of the first year.
York University, Canada:
The Fine Arts Peer Mentoring Program was established to support first year students and upper year students “at risk”. In 2007/08 15% of the first year class enrolled in the mentoring program increasing to almost 90% in 2008/09. None of the students who have been mentored have not been placed on academic probation, also mentees have achieved one grade point higher in their academic average.
3. Picture caption:
BACK ROW: Dr Robin Clark (Aston University), Professor Alison Halstead (Aston University), Ian Sutton (Sheffield University), Kim Davies (Bangor University), Baljit Gill (Aston University), Louise Letch ford (Aston University)
MIDDLE ROW: Richard Higgins (Oxford Brookes University), Professor Lin Norton (Liverpool Hope University), Glynis McDonough (Liverpool Hope University), Dr Anne Wheeler (Aston University), Julian Brasington (Liverpool Hope University)
FRONT ROW: Dr Kathryn Harrington (London Metropolitan University), Robert Drake (Oxford Brookes University), Dr Jane Andrews (Aston University), Mandy Archer (Oxford Brookes University), Amanda Ingleby (Aston University).