Professor Vish Maheshwari, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School
Having a helping hand available as a friend, a peer or a fellow student who could provide guidance and advice or even act as a sounding board is critically important part of a student journey. This peer member may be a fellow student from within one’s own course or an interdisciplinary programme but perhaps studying at different level, mostly a year or two above. Although, operating within a formal mentoring scheme, such peers act in a very informal and casual manner and could be the first point of contact for students, outside of formal classroom and academic support, as they are able to share their own lived experiences. They are able to guide fellow peers on ‘what had worked and not for them’ in a practical manner that can be very helpful. It is credibly established logic where lived experiences are found to be most effective positive guide than some of the conceptual or prescribed advice.
Peer mentoring is not new but is still a novel approach in an education setting and has become an increasingly used practice amongst university students across many higher education institutions. The practice has led to some very positive impact on student experience generally, and more specifically in providing ‘scaffolding’ approach for many students in building their confidence, communication skills and becoming resilient. Peer mentoring also helps with students gaining self-belief and motivation to continue with studies and thrive as one progresses successfully through different stages of a university course.
Staffordshire Business School students are currently involved in a peer mentoring scheme, with student mentors trained and supported by academics, university’s guidance and careers teams. The peer mentoring is aimed at engaging students at all levels, helping with building self-confidence, communication and social skills, networks and more importantly meeting new people by making most of their university time. There is also an added benefit of exploring potential academic and career development opportunities a result. Positive impact of peers is noticeable, especially given the unprecedented circumstances and challenges, within higher education, due to the pandemic. The student engagement with host of activities, in addition to the academic sessions, has been remarkable.
For example, during Staffordshire Business School’s recently organised Creativity and Innovation week, involvement and participation from our students across all courses was remarkable. Alongside academics, peer mentors and student representatives played an important role in encouraging students across the school to participate with various activities planned during this week. As a result, throughout the week, students engaged actively with variety of skills development workshops, Microsoft, Google and LinkedIn learning led digital insights seminars and business engagement sessions. It was a pleasure to note that the lead taken by peers has rubbed off on positively amongst diverse fellow student groups. Additionally, a group of our final year students recently organised and successfully hosted a mid-year virtual ‘Celebrating Success Awards’ ceremony, in order to celebrate success where it has been most deserved amongst students. The awards were voted for and by students, with nominations put forward by fellow students and judged by Department/School student representatives, it was a very successful event that had excellent student body participation throughout.
Overall, peer mentors and mentees have demonstrated a real desire to step up and build a thriving community of students that is confident, resilient with a strong determination to become successful graduates.