P61 – Peer – mentoring programme at the University of Latvia – who are the beneficiaries?

Auditorium – Tuesday 09:00-10:00

Dr. Agita Šmitiņa
Dr. Inta Jaunzeme

Student services of the University of Latvia

Agita Smitina, Dr.sc.admin, Career counsellor. The main professional interests are related to social psychology, educational psychology, and also different activities of student guidance in higher education institutions. Leads seminars for students about career development, communication, stress and time management. Doctoral Thesis has been written about Improvement of Student Guidance at Higher Education Institutions in Latvian.

Inta Jaunzeme, Dr.sc.admin., Deputy Director of Student services. The main fields of responsibilities are student service development at university, management of guidance activities for prospective and 1st year students, online resource (website and intranet) development, expertise in career management and guidance in education sector, research on students transition from school to university.

Summary

In order to support first-year student’s faster adaptation in social and academic environment, Student Service organizes mentors training course “Psychological Aspects of Peer Mentoring” and supervision of students. The paper analyses current situation in peer-mentoring programme provision and presents the results of the training course implementation, student benefits and needs in mentoring process.

Abstract

The aim of the paper is to present development of peer mentoring program at the University of Latvia, implementation and results from two year experience. Research is based on results of annual 1st year students` questionnaire (n=578, 2013; n=710, 2014), development of training programme “Psychological Aspects of Peer Mentoring”, focus group interviews in 2013-2015 (n=120) and data that was received from mentors and mentees questionnaire in 2015.

Higher education institutions are looking for more appropriate and effective model to support students` transition from school to university and adapt to the new environment. Traditionally, mentoring in higher education institutions has either occurred informally or as a planned program where young students are matched with experienced students (mentors) in a formal or informal program (Darvin, Palmer, 2009) Educational psychologists and researchers indicate that peer mentoring in higher education is regarded as an effective intervention to ensure the success and retention of vulnerable students (Terrion, 2007, Ross-Thomas, Elaine, and Bryant, 1994, etc.). Many universities have therefore implemented some form of mentoring program as part of their student guidance services.

The case of the University of Latvia shows that peer mentoring programme is a part of student services provided by faculties and Student service department. The programme has positive impact on student skills development if staff of the university has a good cooperation with Student Council. Roles and responsibilities in provision of peer- mentoring programme are divided between students and Student services counsellors. Students are responsible for delivering information and coordination of mentors and mentees. Student service counsellors provide supervision of programme development and mentors training. Since 2013 each year 60 mentors take part in the training programme, which contains guidance, and communication skills development, self-assessment, case studies and experience exchange among students from different faculties. Students have to choose the training as an elective course with 2 credit point workload.

Beneficiaries from the programme are the mentees, mentors and the university. Researchers (Penner, 2001) indicates that there are many benefits for the mentor – for example, enrichment through seeing someone else grow and succeed, creativity generated by issues and ideas generated by someone younger and newer, friendship. For the organization benefits could be also stronger individuals offering higher quality performance, increased connectivity and caring, support to formal employee orientation and development programs, greater spiritual protection for persons and the organization. Results from focus group interviews in 2013 and 2014 showed that students who participated in the programme improved their skills, attitude towards their role in guidance and gave a useful feedback for service and programme development. Assessing the results of peer – mentoring programme, cooperation with students` council and mentors training course, we conclude that activities have to be accessible for students from all faculties. To provide qualified support, university have to organize mentors training and supervision, and involve into process the academic staff.

References

Darwin, A. & Palmer, E. (2009). Mentoring circles in higher education. Higher Education Research&Development, 28(2), 125-136.

Ross-Thomas E., Bryant J.(1994). Mentoring in Higher Education: A Descriptive Case Study. Education 115 , 70-77.

Terrion J.L. (2007) A taxonomy of the characteristics of student peer mentors in higher education: Findings from a literature review. Journal of Mentoring & Tutoring. 15(2), 149-164

Penner R.(2001) Mentoring in Higher Education. Direction Journal 30 (1), 45-52

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