What are mentor & mentee perceptions of student-led peer mentoring? New study has answers

Lyon, K. A., Holroyd, H., Malette, N., Greer, K., & Bartolic, S. K. (2022). Owning the conversation: Mentor and mentee perceptions of student-led peer mentoring. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning. https://doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2022.2030187

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although peer mentoring is mutually beneficial for mentors and mentees, many studies assess structured versions of this relationship where faculty or staff members are involved.
    • This overlooks the potential peer-initiated and peer-led mentoring relationships have on relationship experiences and outcomes.
  • This study assesses mentor and mentee perceptions of the student-led peer mentoring program they participated in, as well as what institutional assistance they expected to receive.
  • Participants valued the student-led nature of the peer mentoring program.
    • More specifically, they enjoyed establishing their mentoring expectations & goals, having discussions that aren’t associated with institutional interests, applying their knowledge as students into leadership, and having a shared sense of pride.
  • Study participants also provided insights into how institutions can support student-led peer mentoring programs.
  • Have faculty members they can turn to for guidance
  • Have a shared mentoring space in their institution
  • Make administrative support accessible for event-planning
  • Collaborations between student advisory boards (& other related boards) and institutions to ensure the needs of mentoring programs while simultaneously promoting autonomous programming.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Most peer-mentoring research examines structured programs with faculty or staff facilitation, overlooking programs that are student-initiated and student-led. We present data from focus groups with participants of a student-led peer-mentoring program at a large North American University. This case study addresses two research questions: 1) how do peer mentors and mentees perceive the student-led nature of the program? and 2) what institutional assistance do participants expect for their program? Findings demonstrate the value students place in the program being student-led and why it is important for this type of programming to be decoupled from institutional interests. We also outline three ways in which institutional support that does not infringe upon student-led directives can be provided.

Implications (Reprinted from the Conclusion)

In this paper we document mentee and mentor perceptions of a student-run peer-mentoring program. We contextualize the voices of our participants in relation to academic debates about staff and faculty leadership in student peer-mentoring programs. While some scholars argue the need for greater staff or faculty support (Reid, 2008; Storrs et al., 2008; Terrion & Leonard, 2007), often through the formalization and extension of training programs, others make visible the power relations embedded in processes of training and oversight that can infuse peer-mentoring with institutional interests (Christie, 2014; Manathunga, 2007). Taken for granted in this debate is that faculty and staff must be involved with the organization of the program (Colvin & Ashman, 2010; Ward et al., 2014). We extend the discussion by presenting a unique case study: a student peer-mentoring program initiated and managed by students themselves. With focus group data, we aimed to answer two research questions: 1) how do peer-mentoring program participants perceive the student-led nature of the program? and 2) what institutional assistance do participants expect for their program? We find that participants placed value on their ability to collaboratively define and adapt mentoring goals and expectations, to discuss advice decoupled from institutional interests, to experience a shared sense of pride, and to draw upon student’s experiential knowledge through leadership roles. Focus group participants reported experiencing unique benefits because program planning and decision-making were student-led. They continually expressed a desire to keep the peer-mentoring program student-run.

Institutional oversight of student peer-mentoring – though often beneficial for mentees, mentors and the program they are enrolled in – contains contradictions. Within the context of the growing demand for higher education, increasing time pressures of faculty, and the transactional nature of the university setting, these students’ voices raise questions about the latent objectives of faculty and staff-led peer-mentoring programs in post-secondary contexts, as well as the potential impacts of this involvement on the development and nature of student mentoring dyads. As Christie (2014) cautions, ‘institutional power circulates through mentoring even when it is constructed as a straightforward process of supporting mentees’ (p. 961).

To access this article, click here.