Everyone needs a mentor to succeed in academic and professional success as well as personal success. A mentor is an experienced person in his field. He helps his mentee in setting a goal and achieving it. There is a significant difference in age, social status, and experience between the mentor and a mentee in a traditional mentoring program. Whereas in peer mentoring programs, there is a narrow age gap. This article throws more information on how we can implement peer mentoring in Educational Institutions.There are many definitions for mentoring. It varies from one context to another, be it a business, academics, or developmental psychology. In general, mentoring means an experienced person guiding a junior who is less experienced or knowledgeable in any given field through sharing knowledge, information, offering advice, and emotional support over some time. The relationship between a mentor and a mentee occurs in two ways. It is either in a formal, organized way, matched by a third party, as in academic institutions or any other organizations, or casually, where mentor and mentee relationship occurs naturally without any formal procedure.
In a conservative mentoring program, the mentor and the mentee come from two diverse social positions, such as a professor and a student, or a counsellor and a student. In a peer mentoring program, a more experienced person helps a less experienced person. Peer mentoring programs can happen either at an academic institution or any organization. The scope of this post is confined to academic peer mentoring.
A peer mentor guides a new student who joined a college or university. The peer mentor offers their support, advice, and knowledge to the mentee, and thus helps in overall academic performance. Traditional mentoring is hierarchical. In peer mentoring, the age of the peer mentor is almost the same or maybe a little older than the mentee. However, there is a significant distinction in their level of college experience.
When a student joins a graduation course, he needs to adapt to an altogether new role since there is a fundamental change in the student-teacher relationship, changes in norms and consequences, and teaching faculty members’ expectations. The student has to balance commitments and understand what it means to be a successful college student. A mentor plays a major role in addressing all these issues and helps a fresher cope with college life.
THREE TYPES OF PEER MENTORING
The modes of delivering peer mentoring can be broadly classified into three types:
1. Paired Face-to-Face Mentoring
2. Group Face-to-Face Mentoring
3. Online Mentoring
1. Paired Face-to-Face Mentoring:
This is the most commonly used method of delivery which has been proved very effective. There would be better communication and also a persuasive benefit in this type of mentoring. But, as time advances, adjusting both the mentor and mentee’s schedule will become difficult. However, the survey results show that mentees are generally more satisfied with this delivery method than others.
2. Group Face-to-Face Mentoring:
In this type, a mentor interacts with mentees in a group. This style of delivery enjoys some advantages such as scalability. When one mentor interacts with many mentees, a large number of mentees are served. Apart from this, mentees also realize that they are not the only ones who deal with a specific issue. This motivates them to improve their learning potential. The only limitation of Group Mentoring is that a large space is required when compared to Paired Face-to-Face Mentoring.
3. Online Mentoring:
This is a technology-mediated mentoring style. This relationship benefits both the mentor and the mentee. Earlier, the communication occurs through text (eg. Email). With the invention of modern technology, there are various online communication software available to communicate. Online Mentoring can be either paired or group.
The advantages of Online Mentoring are many. There won’t be any space issue as it happens in virtual space. This has the advantage of scalability where a large number of mentees can be served. More importantly, the mentors can communicate with their mentees early before the beginning of the first semester. This additionally enables the mentees to address their issues without any hindrance, as they don’t have the fear of being labelled negative. However, one must have relevant skills in conducting online mentoring. There is also a greater probability of miscommunication as body language is missing.
PEER MENTORING – ADVANTAGES
The primary goal of mentoring is the retention of students, help them achieve academic success, and transition from their previous role to new role so that they are better connected with increased satisfaction. Apart from accomplishing all these objectives, there are additional advantages of peer mentoring.In addition to imparting confidence in a mentee, the peer mentors also support in accessing the various resources available on the campus, be it the library, healthcare service, browsing centre, and other resources. This is very important because the success of a student lies in effectively utilizing the campus resources.
Peer mentoring programs demand less revenue than hierarchical mentoring programs. In the case of the latter one, the institution or any university has to hire a full-time faculty to do the same job. The peer mentor fulfils the same objective at a much lower cost. A stipend is enough for the peer mentors to do the task effectively.
In any hierarchical institution, there are more peers than the higher authorities. Even though there are potential mentors among faculty members who are committed and willing to help the new students, their other job demands make it difficult to give time for the students whenever required. On the other hand, there are many experienced students, who have all the capabilities to guide the new students. It is not just the number of students available as a mentor but their readiness to guide also matters. The students do it out of motivation, to return what they have received when they were trying to adjust to the new environment.
Generally a faculty is assigned the role of a mentor, assuming that they have more experience in mentoring a student. But, a fresher need not be motivated to follow the advice of faculty for two reasons; the first one is that the students doubt the motivation behind the faculty’s work as they do it mostly as part of their job. The second reason is that the student is not sure whether the mentor is offering his advice to the mentee based on his experience as a student, or his expectations from the student as a faculty, or trying to impose the society’s expectations on how a student should perform. In these two scenarios, the mentee may reject the advantages of such advice. When a fellow student is a mentor, it is easier for the mentee to understand the motivation to help the mentee. At the same time, the mentor has already proved to be a good role model as a student who has succeeded in academics as well as in other areas that are required to succeed at the campus. The mentor not only explains the faculty’s expectations from the students, but he also shares his experience of facing a similar challenge which serves as a guide to the mentee to overcome such situations with ease.
SKILLS REQUIRED FOR PEER MENTORING
A mentor is an experienced guide, a trusted partner, and a caring role model. To become a successful peer mentor, one should possess the following skills:
Peer mentors are those who have faced similar situations when they were newcomers. This experience helps the peer mentor to understand the problem of their mentees better. But, they should develop active listening skills without making hasty judgments that they have understood everything. Active listening skills involve listening using all the senses. Establishing good eye contact with encouraging body language encourages the mentees to open up. Active listening gives the feeling to the mentees that they are accepted and thus trust is built. Keen observation enables the mentor to get a better understanding of the problem than mere words.
The relationship between the peer mentor and a mentee is a contract. There is a commitment on the part of mentors that they are prepared to help the assigned mentees for a scheduled period and assist them to bring out the best in them. The peer mentor should set times for meetings, and stick to them.
3. Problem Solving:
Listening to a problem faced by the mentee doesn’t solve the problem. The role of a peer mentor is to work through issues and arrive at appropriate solutions. The peer mentor should foster the ability to sense several more likely conflicting issues and suggest various alternatives.
Empathy is a vulnerable choice. The peer mentor should be careful enough by not dismissing the concern of their mentee by saying he will be fine or offering a quick-fix solution by advising. The peer mentor should be able to put themselves in the shoes of their mentees and feel what they are feeling.
5. Understanding Boundaries and Limits:
The peer mentor should remember that their skills and knowledge have certain limitations. They should accept the fact that they cannot provide the solution to all the problems faced by the mentees. Trying to appear supportive all the time invites more harm than good. Peer mentors should call for professional support in such cases which are beyond their capacity to resolve.
At the same time, the peer mentor ought to understand their boundaries. They should not impose their agenda on the mentees. There might be some personal information that the mentee never wants to disclose. The mentor should not intercept the wish of the mentee.
Every successful relationship is built on the foundation of trust. The mentor should take due care not to disclose any information shared by the mentee to the outsider that is confidential. However, under some special conditions, the peer mentor should share the information with the professional faculty member such as suicidal or homicidal thoughts, history of child or elder abuse, and such crucial information.
IMPLEMENTATION OF PEER MENTORING
When an educational institution identifies the need to have a peer-mentoring program, it is important to implement it effectively. The following steps should be taken to implement a peer mentoring program.
2. Appointing Mentor Coordinator And Mentor Supervisor
3. Recruiting Mentors
4. Policy Making
5. Planning The Size And Design
While the goal of the peer mentoring program is to help new students, it is conceivable only if there are enough budgets to run the program. The budget is required for hiring staff, program space, development and maintenance of IT, mentee recruitment and recruitment and training of mentors, general program administration, mentee program activities, evaluation, and mentor compensation.
2. APPOINTING MENTOR COORDINATOR AND MENTOR SUPERVISOR:
To supervise the administration and day-to-day operations of the program, a coordinator should be appointed. He must coordinate with administrators, faculty members, mentors, and parents. In some cases, the program runs for a longer duration. The number of stakeholders also can be too high. This cannot be managed by the coordinator alone. To reduce his workload, there will be a need to recruit a mentor supervisor.
3. RECRUITING AND HIRING MENTORS:
As per the mode of delivery, the number of mentors to mentees is decided. In case it is a group mentoring program, the mentor-to-mentee ratio is relatively high. In other cases, a mentor is recruited for two or three students based on the recognized needs.
4. POLICY MAKING:
Making a policy facilitates clarity and transparency in the program. The policy varies between a larger mentoring program and one-to-one mentoring programs. The general policy topics incorporate the selection, training, compensation of mentors, recruitment of mentees, matching of mentors and mentees, expectations for mentors and mentees among others.
5. PLANNING THE SIZE AND DESIGN
Peer mentoring can be designed in three dimensions. They are-
c) Addressing student needs
The institution can choose to include all the newcomers into the mentoring program or they can offer this for a specific population.
A specific target audience can be students from different cultures, nationalities, or first-generation college students. Depending upon the type of program, the staff member should be recruited. If it is a custom-made program, a single staff can handle the role of the program director and mentor coordinator. But, the process of recruiting the mentors consumes too much time, as the potential mentors should be from a similar background. He should fulfil all eligibility criteria. Contrary to that, a universal mentoring program takes less time to recruit mentors. The degree of difficulty for implementing custom-made programs depends upon the distinct population. For instance, it is possible to get the data of first-generation college students, only if there is a provision in the application form to fill that field.
While it is vital to organize an event introducing mentors to their mentees, it is also important to decide the duration of the program. The duration can be confined to either one semester or less or longer than that. The demerit of long-term mentoring is that there might be a chance that the mentee will disengage from the mentor after a certain duration. In such cases, the institution should conduct more programs that enable the mentors and mentees to socialize with one another.
In a short duration program, the supervision of the mentee by the peer mentor should be more as the time is exceptionally less to bring out an expected outcome. It will be more challenging if there is any conflict between the peer mentor and the mentee. In such conditions, the mentor coordinator ought to intervene to resolve the conflict.
c. Addressing Student’s Needs:
There are two approaches to address students’ needs; targeted and developmental. After assessing the needs at the initial level, the institution should develop support materials to help students cope with issues such as test-taking strategies and stress management at a predetermined time. Such foundational materials should be provided in advance so that students are mentally prepared for their new roles. There could be other issues that develop with time. Such issues should be addressed as and when it shows up.
Peer mentoring programs are incomplete without suitable training for the peer mentors. The peer mentors cannot guide their mentees solely based on their experience as a fresher or the inputs they received from their peer mentors.
Peer mentoring training program assists the mentors to understand their role as peer mentors and the desired goals, outcomes, and policies of the mentorship program. It additionally gives them insights into common issues they face.
The training program should be comprehensive, but it should not be complex. It should be appropriate at the level of the group being trained. The training program should build trainee’s confidence to face the issues they will be going to face in real-life situations.
The duration of training may range from 2 to3 hours to an entire day depending upon the kind of program. In a few cases, there will be ongoing training programs which can be conducted once a week. If the number of trainees is too big in numbers, it is advisable to provide training programs in small groups.
The purpose of the evaluation is to understand whether the desired objective of the mentoring program has been accomplished or not. Evaluation provides the data of peer mentors’ and mentees’ expectations. It likewise helps to understand what aspect of the program is working, and which areas ought to be focused on.
One method of evaluation is the evaluation of peer mentors’ and mentees’ behaviour against a certain standard. Another method is to gather detailed information from mentors and mentees regarding the value of the program, the challenges they face, the strategies that work or don’t work, and the activities that are worth rewarding.