Mentoring and Peer Learning

I’ve been involved with peer-learning and mentoring for more than a decade. I have recently collaborated with some excellent researchers on some interesting articles below. All links are to freely available full-text articles!

Effectiveness of Supplemental Instruction (SI aka Peer Assisted Study Sessions – PASS; PAL etc)

On the Effectiveness of Supplemental Instruction: A Systematic Review of Supplemental Instruction and Peer-Assisted Study Sessions Literature Between 2001 and 2010. Review of Educational Research, 2014. Dawson, P., van der Meer, J., Skalicky, J. & Cowley, K.

Supplemental instruction (SI)—variously known as peer-assisted learning, peer-assisted study sessions, and other names—is a type of academic support intervention popular in higher education. In SI sessions, a senior student facilitates peer learning between undergraduates studying a high-risk course. This article presents a systematic review of the literature between 2001 and 2010 regarding the effectiveness of SI. Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Due to methodological heterogeneity and lack of consistency defining the SI treatment, qualitative synthesis methods were applied. For seven included studies, however, an effect size of SI participation on final grades was calculated, ranging from d = 0.29 to d = 0.60. The findings of the review are consistent with claims validated by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1990s that participation in SI is correlated with higher mean grades, lower failure and withdrawal rates, and higher retention and graduation rates.

Journal of Peer Learning.

The Journal of Peer Learning has several articles on the effectiveness of SI available open-access. I was co-founder and Editor of the journal, and am now on the Editorial Board.

Defining, designing and specifying mentoring models

Beyond a Definition: Toward a Framework for Designing and Specifying Mentoring Models. Educational Researcher 2014. Dawson, P

More than three decades of mentoring research has yet to converge on a unifying definition of mentoring; this is unsurprising given the diversity of relationships classified as mentoring. This article advances beyond a definition toward a common framework for specifying mentoring models. Sixteen design elements were identified from the literature and tested through specification of two different mentoring models from higher education contexts. This framework provides researchers and practitioners with a detailed yet concise method of communicating exactly what they mean when using the word mentoring; it may also act as a useful set of prompts for educators designing new mentoring interventions.

Mentoring, supporting and understanding SI Leaders

Doctoral thesis: Examining how an online mentoring model might support new Supplemental Instruction leaders. Completed and passed in 2010, awarded 2011 at the University of Wollongong in the Faculty of Education. Supervisors: Lori Lockyer & Brian Ferry.

Supporting first year student supporters: an online mentoring model for supplemental instruction leaders. 10th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference 2007. Dawson, P., Lockyer, L. & Ferry, B.

Supplemental Instruction (SI), or Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) as it is commonly known in Australia, involves experienced senior student Peer Leaders who provide regularly scheduled peer learning sessions with students enrolled in university courses. Commonly implemented on first year subjects, the sessions integrate “how to learn” with “what to learn”, helping students achieve better grades and helping raise student retention rates. This paper discusses the challenges of supporting SI Leaders who are geographically dispersed across multiple campuses and considers the theoretical and empirical literature that informs the development of an online mentoring model.

Servants for students: PASS leadership as ‘servant’ leadership. 15th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference 2012. Kimberley, K., Barratt, C. & Dawson, P.

The role of Supplemental Instruction Leaders is largely educative. SI Leaders help ease the transition of participants into university-level study. Through the creation of an informal learning community, SI Leaders assist students with the content and concepts of the target unit, as well as developing the independent study skills required by participants for success in the remainder of their degrees. In this article, we draw upon the management discipline to argue that ‘servant leadership’ (Greenleaf, 1977) is appropriate to the SI context, and offer practical suggestions for incorporating servant leader concepts and behaviours in SI training.

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