How peer mentoring could benefit your students

The support of parents and teachers is undoubtedly vital for the success of students. However, the impact that guidance and advice from people who are closer in age can have is often overlooked – in fact, peer mentoring has been shown to lead to improved attitude to school, attendance and behaviour. It can also help students to build up a peer network within their school, causing more holistic benefits such as a sense of community and belonging.

Mentoring has been shown to lead to improved attitude towards school, learning and behaviour

Selecting your students

Peer mentoring is typically set up between older and younger students, so that the younger students can benefit from the experience and knowledge of older ones. If you’re planning a one-to-one programme, it is important to select committed mentors, as the long-term development of a relationship between mentor and mentee will be vital to the productivity of that relationship. Ideally, look out for students who have a good understanding of what the programme will entail and have shown commitment to similar commitments in the past.

Where possible, try to match mentors and mentees based on similar backgrounds and interests. Students are more likely to see mentors as role models when they identify with them, and understand that their mentor has overcome similar obstacles to the ones they face. They are also more likely to find the advice and coping mechanisms which they are taught by their mentor useful for the specific challenges they encounter.

Training your mentors

It’s important to spend some time training mentors before you launch your programme. The training doesn’t have to be long – a single 1-2 hour session can be enough to clarify the aims of the programme and provide mentors with fundamental skills necessary to making a meaningful impact on their students.

Make sure you include basic mentoring skills as part of your training – this will equip students with the empathetic language and attitude which is required for their help to be effective. The training should cover the following basic points – these are covered in more details in this training sheet made by Harvard University.

What is the purpose of mentoring?

The answer to this will vary slightly depending on the specific aims of your programme – for example, if your programme aims to improve the educational outcomes of low-achieving students, the most obvious purpose might be to improve mentees GCSE grades. More broadly, mentors should understand that they are aiming to act as a trusted ally who helps to facilitate positive change in their mentee.

Mentors should understand that they are aiming to act as a trusted ally who helps to facilitate positive change in their mentee

How to be a good listener

Listening well can be difficult for the best of us, and it is particularly important to be a focused and productive listener within a mentoring role. Make sure to cover how mentors can be active and empathetic listeners, and how they can ask questions in the most productive way possible.

Basic ideas surrounding disclosure and how to protect students

Students should be aware that while confidentiality is important to create a safe environment for their mentee, there are certain disclosures which should always be passed onto an adult in authority – this should be covered clearly within the training session.

Delivering your programme

Again, how you choose to deliver your programme will develop on the aims of the programme: for example, a programme designed to help new students settle into school should begin at the beginning of the academic year, while a programme which aims to improve exam results should start closer to exam season. You can choose which of the following delivery methods best suits your requirement and level of resource – or mix and match!

Q&A sessions

Organise a question and answer session between a group of mentees and one or two mentors. This delivery method is particularly good for mentoring programmes which are more skill-based and less emotive, such as developing exam skills. Mentees may benefit from hearing the answers to questions which they may not have thought of, and a group discussion can feel less intense than a one-to-one.

After-school drop-in sessions

Ask some of your mentors to stay behind after school for one day a week so that younger students can approach them for advice and guidance on a drop-in basis. This is a more casual form of mentoring where students are required to take the initiative to approach mentors when they need guidance, so may be less effective at helping less confident students. However, it also opens mentoring up to a wider range of students who you may not have identified as candidates for mentoring initially.

One-to-one mentoring will give students a safe environment to raise concerns and ask questions which they might not feel confident talking about in front of an adult or in a classroom setting

One-to-one mentoring

Arrange a meeting place and time where pairs of mentors and mentees can have one-to-one sessions. Consistency will be important in ensuring that both parties get as much as they can from this delivery method, so make sure there is a system in place where you can keep track of attendance and monitor engagement by both mentor and mentee with the programme. This format will be particularly beneficial for students who lack confidence, as it will give them a safe environment to raise concerns and ask questions which they might not feel confident talking about in front of an adult or in a classroom setting.

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