SSPSSR’s peer mentoring scheme is boosting study skills for first year students

Increasing numbers of first year students at SSPSSR are taking advantage of the School’s Academic Peer Mentoring (APM) scheme to boost their study skills.

The APM scheme pairs students with specially trained mentors, all of whom are experienced students themselves (Stage 2, 3 or postgraduate). It’s designed to support students as they make the transition to university, to promote learning between students in different year groups, and to foster a stronger learning community.

The scheme is managed at SSPSSR by Student Success Lecturer Dr Triona Fitton as part of a wider University APM initiative. Any student can apply to have a mentor, but priority is given to Stage 1 students at SSPSSR.

Dr Fitton has noticed a big increase in demand from first year students for a mentor as they navigate their first year during the global pandemic. She said: ‘Last year we kick-started Academic Peer Mentoring in the school in Canterbury. This year, we’ve seen a 184% increase in interest, and now have over 90 students on the scheme. It’s an amazing testament to our student mentors that so many have been willing to take on an additional mentee to cover increased demand provoked by the pandemic.’

Mentors are selected based on their academic results, their attendance and their extra-curricular activities. This year, mentors have received their training from the Student Learning Advisory Service (SLAS) online via an Academic Peer Mentoring Induction and Training module on Moodle.

“Being a mentor during COVID has really helped me. It’s allowed me to take focus off of myself and the mountain of work I have to do and focus on someone else for a change. It has also taken the pressure off of all my university work and allowed me to focus my energy on helping someone, even if it’s not much. I enjoy passing on my knowledge and how I got through university to someone I know needs it. I know how useful an ambassador would’ve been to me at the beginning of university and I enjoy being there for someone who needs it.”

Mentor Bolu Ogunsanya

Mentors support their mentees in:

  • Understanding assignment briefs
  • Managing their time
  • Understanding academic conventions such as referencing, submission, Turnitin
  • Discussing course content
  • Helping with revision skills and exam preparation
  • Learning from feedback
  • Signposting to specialist services within the university such as careers, counselling, finance etc

Mentors are asked to complete a weekly mentoring record and to provide feedback to the School on the progress of mentoring. In recognition of their commitment, the mentors are awarded certificates and their participation in the APM is recognised on their Higher Education Achievement Reports (HEAR).

“Just knowing my mentor is there makes me feel like I have a metaphorical safety net.”

Mentee Joyti De-Laurey

Dr Fitton said: ‘The mentoring programme has provided our new students with a friendly, informal point of contact at a point in time when university study can feel particularly intimidating and hard to navigate. Just having the opportunity to discuss basic things, like how to submit assignments, or essay writing tips, means students don’t have to spend time struggling with issues created by remote learning alone. I think it helps them to have a point of contact who is amongst their peers.

‘Student mentoring can also help with feelings of inclusion and belonging at the institution and it’s heartening to see a broad range of students from varied backgrounds participating as both mentors and recipients of mentoring – this means it is a scheme that is helping the students it is intended to reach.’

SSPSSR students also benefit from the support and involvement of Socrates, SSPSSR’s student society, which has formerly assisted with recruitment and promotion of the scheme through initiatives such as a ‘Meet your Mentors’ pizza night.

“I found the student mentoring programme very useful. At the beginning of my studies, I found everything overwhelming. My mentor is a year ahead of me, she talked me through how she managed to cope when she was also in year one and she helped me to create a study timetable to help me with all my deadlines essays and assignments and this was very useful to me. I recommend this programme for anyone that needs help in their first year.”

Mentee Elizabeth Aladefa

SSPSSR has a reputation for being one of the best in the country for teaching and research. The School offers a wide selection of innovative programmes and attracts students from all over the world. Academics are committed to supporting you all the way through your studies. They challenge you to become a creative thinker, with your own opinions and ideas, and help you develop useful skills for your future career.

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