What are the benefits and motives of becoming college peer mentors in sports?

Hayman, R., Wharton, K., Bruce-Martin, C., & Allin, L. (2022). Benefits and motives for peer mentoring in higher education: An exploration through the lens of cultural capital. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning. 


Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Evidence demonstrates that adapting to academic and social demands are two of the most challenging aspects of being an incoming college student.
    • This is especially relevant for students from underrepresented backgrounds since they are more likely to disengage if their expectations are only partly fulfilled and if they feel like they are receiving insufficient support.
  • Although diverse cohorts are enrolled in college sports programs every year, there is still a lack of studies that explore the potential benefits peer support has in sports education.
  • This study examined college sports students’ motives for becoming peer mentors and how the mentoring experience benefited them.
  • A majority of the sample were first-generation college students who wanted to gain cultural and economic capital and assist others like them with developing their own cultural and social capital.
  • Apart from developing cultural knowledge and professional skills, peer mentors also established new relationships and networks through their mentees and fellow peer mentors.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Despite the large and diverse cohorts recruited annually across the globe to university sport programmes, few studies have assessed the value of peer support within sports education settings. Even more surprising is the lack of research to have explored the encounters of peer mentors who help deliver these schemes and the impact it had on their professional development. Conducted at a post-92 English university, this study explored the benefits and motives of students volunteering to become peer mentors in their second year of university. Drawing on Bourdieu’s key concepts as the guiding theoretical framework, the study suggests that participants, who were predominantly first generation to attend university, engaged in peer mentoring to develop cultural capital for their chosen professional field, but also to give back and support the development of social and cultural capital for mentees. Practical implications for developing future peer support programmes are presented, as are future research avenues and limitations.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Using Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts, this study explored the motives of undergraduate sports students for engaging in a peer mentoring opportunity and the benefits they gained from this experience. The positive impact of peer support on the retention and success of university students is well supported in the literature (e.g. Collings et al., 2016: Ragavan, 2014). In recent times though, those without sufficient academic and social support have felt increasingly isolated and emotionally destabilised by their new environment and more likely to fail or withdraw from their studies (Farhat et al., 2017). This has particularly been the case for first generation students who may have little insight into the cultural expectations of university or the social networks to ease their transition (Allin et al., 2017).

Drawing on the workings of Bourdieu (1977, 1986), this study highlights how participants on a peer mentoring scheme developed cultural capital, through the gaining of skills, but also cultural knowledge and culturally relevant ways of behaving, teaching and learning, which were valued in education and specifically in the professional field of teaching. In this way they were learning and adjusting to the ‘rules of the game’ (Grenfell, 2008) through acquiring embodied dispositions, professional values and effective practices for success. Students also showed awareness of how their enhanced cultural capital could act as a form of distinction when accessing the teaching profession and supported the conversion of their social and cultural capital into later economic capital.

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