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Peer Mentoring is a form of mentoring that takes place in learning environments such as schools, usually between an older more experienced student and a new student(s). Peer mentoring is a good way of practising social skills for the mentor and help on adapting and settling in for the mentee. Most peer mentors are picked for their sensibility, confidence, social skills and reliability.

Peer mentors appear mainly in secondary schools where students moving up from Junior/Primary schools may need assistance in settling in at the whole new schedule and lifestyle of secondary school life.

Peer mentors benefit from, usually, excellent recommendations from the school they mentored in and it aids admission into university.

The amount of time that peer mentors and mentees meet varies according to the particular mentoring program. Some pairs may make contact once a month, while others may meet 3-4 times per month or more. It is usually advised that mentors and mentees meet more often in the beginning of the relationship, in order to establish a good foundation. Mentors and mentees may maintain contact through email, telephone or in person meetings. Peer mentoring organizations may also set up social events for those participating in the program. These events provide good opportunities for increased social interaction between mentors and mentees.

The compatibility of mentor and mentee is a factor that should be taken into consideration when choosing pairs. Mentors and mentees may benefit from having similar backgrounds, interests and life experiences.

The objectives of a peer mentoring program should be well defined and measurable. The effectiveness of the program should be monitored to ensure that the objectives are being met. One way to monitor the effectivenss of a program is to administer evaluations to the mentors and mentees.

Mentoring is usually done on a volunteer basis, although some institutions pay mentors and offer other benefits. Mentors often undergo training that will help guide them in the mentoring process.

Peer Mentoring in education

Peer mentoring in education occurs at the grade school level, the undergraduate level, and the graduate school level. The goals of the program may vary according to the level, the educational institution or the discipline.

Peer mentors in secondary schools aid in the transition of younger students from primary school to secondary school. They may assist mentees with their school work and study skills, peer pressure (such as pressure to use drugs or have sex), issues with attendance and behavior, and typical family problems. Peer mentors for youth may simply be a person for the younger child to spend time with. Mentoring programs for youth can be especially useful for students who are suffering from a lack of social support, and may be susceptible to delinquency.

Peer mentors for undergraduates may assist newly admitted students with time management, study skills, organizational skills, curriculum planning, administrative issues, test preparation, term paper preparation, goal setting, and grade monitoring. Additionally, such mentors may provide other forms of social support for the student, such as friendship, networking, and aiding the student's adjustment to college life.

A peer mentor at the graduate school level may assist new students in selecting an advisor, negotiating the advisor/advisee relationship, preparation for major examinations, publishing articles, the job search, and adjusting to the rigors of graduate school life.

Peer Mentoring in Higher Education

Peer mentoring in higher education has enjoyed a good name and is seen favorably by both educational administrators and students. During the last decade, peer mentoring has expanded and is found is most colleges and universities, frequently as a means to outreach, retain, and recruit minority students.

Peer Mentoring is used extensively in higher education due to several reasons such as the assumption that the benefits attributed to classical mentoring can translate to peer mentoring relationships, mainly when the peer mentor and the mentee are alike; also the lack of roles models or volunteers forces administrators and students leaders to use peer students as mentors of other students -usually first year students, ethnic minorities, and women- in order to guide, support, and instruct junior students; and because peer mentoring programs require a low budget for administration and/or development, they become a cheap alternative to support students perceived as likely to fail in educational settings. Although peer mentoring programs are appealing to most people, such as classical mentoring, and although they seem easy to implement and develop, there is little research to support whether peer mentoring is effective or if it gives the same results as classical mentoring. Classic mentoring is when an older adult mentors a younger person.

Peer mentoring programs usually target ethnic minorities, and women. This approach tends to be conceived out of the Deficiency Model, where multi-ethnic students, women and students with disabilities are perceived in need of help, and who can not succeed unless senior students or successful adults help them. One of the main critics towards peer mentoring is the lack of research to really know what peer mentoring relationships are like, how they develop, and what their outcomes are. Also, the role of peer mentors and peer mentees is not clear. The mere nature of being either a mentor or mentee, and at the same time a peer make the relationship a dual relationship where other identities also converge. Another critic about peer mentoring programs is that they tend to promote assimilation among ethnic minority students because it uses student role models who are perceived as successful in social educational environments characterized by majority students. These roles models become then the people to imitate or emulate by students who play the role of peer mentees. A more subtle critic of peer mentoring refers to the lack of supervision and structure of most peer mentoring programs. Most peer mentoring programs are led by undergraduate students and rarely have direct supervision of higher education full time university staff.

Although peer mentoring programs have flourished in most university settings and continue to spread, critics insist that first, little is knows of the nature of peer mentoring relationships, second, there are not consistent studies that indicate what the outcomes are, other than good feelings among peers and the development of friendship among students -frequently ethnic minorities-, and third there is suspicion among critical theorists that peer mentoring led by seniors students promote the status quo and prevents critical analysis of the deficiencies of the higher education system. Also given the fact that students are led by other students who serve as peer mentors, critics say that university staff may free themselves thanks to this approach from their responsibility to listen and help students classified as peer mentees who are usually first year students, the group with the largest attrition rate in higher education. Critics say that without extensive training and supervision, the guidance given to peer mentees by senior students who serve as mentors is left to an uncertain destiny. Furthermore, several retractors of peer mentoring express concerns and worries about this growing practice due to the lack of research to support its use and widespread development.

Peer mentoring in higher education usually focuses on social, academic, and cultural skills that can help students to graduate from higher education institutions (e.g. colleges and universities), and how the higher educational system work (e.g. how to apply for financial aid, how to register for classes, how to write papers, how to choose a major, etc). But the knowledge students received usually comes from seniors students who serve as peer mentors and this presents a limitation.

Peer mentoring differs from classical mentoring, which usually tends to take place in work settings, on two aspects. First, in peer mentoring mentors and mentees are close in age, experiences, educational level, and sometimes they may also overlap on several personal identities, which are usually the criteria for matching, but leaves junior students vulnerable to peer pressure and unsupervised rivalry. Second, peer mentoring programs are semi-structured planned programs with specific guidelines and frequently with a set number of meetings and activities, within a pre-determined amount of time for the experience, which may be a limitation for the ending of a relationship that might not work or outgrow naturally earlier. Students who enroll in peer mentoring programs tend to be matched mostly according to major, gender, language of preference, and ethnic background, and those students who share the largest number of similarities tend to become peers in the peer mentoring relationship.

Little research is available to know what the experience of peer mentees is and what happens between peer mentors and peer mentees who have different characteristics. Although some authors report abusive relationships, indoctrination, and cultural assimilation on the peer mentee’s side, peer mentoring programs continue to develop and more programs are implemented, mostly in the English Speaking world.

Despite all deficiencies peer mentoring seem to provide support, and help among students, who are the strongest supporters of such practice.

Cross-age peer mentoring

The Handbook of Youth Mentoring[1] provides the following definition of cross-age peer mentoring: "Peer mentoring involves an interpersonal relationship between two youth of different ages that reflects a greater degree of hierarchical power imbalance than is typical of a friendship and in which the goal is for the older youth to promote one or more aspects of the younger youth's development. Peer mentoring refers to a sustained (long-term), usually formalized (i.e. program-based), developmental relationship. The relationship is "developmental" in that the older peer's goal is to help guide the younger mentee's development in domains such as interpersonal skills, self-esteem and conventional connectedness and attitudes (e.g. future motivation, hopfulness)."

Advantages of peer mentoring in education

There are many advantages of peer mentoring for the mentor and the mentee alike. Peer mentoring may help new students adapt to a new academic environment faster. The relationship between the mentor and mentee gives the mentee a sense of being connected to the larger community where they may otherwise feel lost. Mentors are usually slightly more advanceed students, so they can share useful knowledge and experience that is otherwise difficult to obtain. Mentors are chosen because they are academically successful and because they possess good communication, social and leadership skills. As a consequence, mentors serve as positive role models for the students, guiding them towards academic and social success. Mentors provide support, advice, encouragement, and even friendship to students. Peer mentoring may improve student retention rates.

Mentors also stand to benefit from the mentor/mentee relationship. Mentoring gives mentors a chance to sharpen their social, communication and leaderships skills. Mentors develop friendships through their participation in mentoring programs. Mentors also benefit from the satisfaction of helping a younger student, and possibly shaping a young students life in a positive way. Mentors may also be paid, and they may receive other benefits such as prioritized registration, course credit, and references.

Advantages of peer mentoring at work

Peer mentoring can be advantageous in the work setting. Peer mentoring offers a low cost way to train employees. Mentees may feel more comfortable learning from a peer than in a hierarchical setting. Mentees may also benefit from the bonds they form with colleagues.

Intergenerational mentoring

References

  1. DuBois, David L.; Michael J. Karcher (2005). Handbook of Youth Mentoring, Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Ltd.

See also

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