Monday, December 21, 2015

Peer2Peer: Mentoring

Most children have the potential to achieve and succeed in their life goals. However, not all children receive the support that they need. In fact many students simply give up and drop out of school. One of the most effective ways to learn and succeed in academia is to link with a peer mentor. The word 'mentor' comes from the Greek word for 'steadfast' and 'enduring'. It is interesting to note that researchers have found that young people who overcome poverty to reach tertiary education often have a mentor  as a role model. The American 'Student2Student' program is an example of one such voluntary project that aims to develop this type of mentor and mentee relationship.

The Student2Student mentoring program gives American high school students the opportunity to mentor younger middle school and elementary school students. The program matches students with their future career interests. It provides an enriching platform to guide the younger student by connecting with older mentors with community resources. It benefits everyone. The mentor is given an opportunity to invest time and effort into guiding younger students while developing collaborative and leadership skills. Younger students benefit from this as they are guided in their future aspirations by linking to motivated older mentors and possibly developing connections to community and business interests.

In Australia there are at least 1 in 10 students of low socio-economic backgrounds that do not meet the minimum reading standards of the national tests (NAPLAN) in years 3, 5, 7, and 9. Over 40% of the adult population in Australia do not have adequate literacy skills to cope with the demands of modern society. Moreover, people with low literacy skills are less likely to complete school, more likely to be unemployed and on social security, as well as more likely to experience poor health. The 'Smith Family' is a charity organisation that believes that every child deserves a chance in life. They support more than 638,000 Australian children living in poverty. One of their major concerns is that children in low socio-economic circumstances receive the extra support with reading.

The Smith Family have a peer mentoring program also called 'student2student program. In their 2013 report, 'Improving through peer support: The student2student program' they give a summary of the effectiveness of peer support for reading. In this report they state "Literacy skills are central to an individual's employment prospects, the ability to manage one's health, be an informed consumer and an active citizen. Without solid literacy skills it is very difficult to achieve technological literacy and governments and businesses are increasingly using digital platforms to provide a range of services."

At the completion of their 2012 student2student program more than 9 out of 10 students (93%) showed an increase in their reading ages relative the the start of the program. Approximately 64% of the mentees made an overall gain of at least 6 months in their reading performance. Mentors generally agreed that they had enjoyed participating in the program, particularly when they saw evidence of their buddy's reading improvement and engagement. The report goes on to say, "There is considerable evidence on the effectiveness of using trained peer tutors in programs aiming to support children with reading difficulties (Woolley and Hay, 2007). Peer tutoring is based on co-operative learning, and when children are in an environment of mutual support, where co-operation, shared goals and a sense of responsibility for the reading process are promoted, a sense of belonging, accomplishment and increased motivation will be achieved (Grimes, 1981 cited in Woolley and Hay, 2007). The one-on-one nature of peer tutoring is seen as contributing to increasing the student’s engagement as well as maintaining their attention to the text for longer periods of time (Woolley and Hay, 2007). The last is important given the relationship between reading frequency and skill." 

Above are two peer mentoring support programs that have been highly successful. Even though they have a similar name their focus is slightly different. However, one wonders if the essential elements of both programs could be combined. This would simply mean matching older and younger students with the same interests.


Grimes, L. (1981). Learned helplessness and attribution theory. Learning Disability Quarterly, 4, 91-100.
Woolley, G. E., & Hay, I. (2007). Reading intervention: The benefits of using trained tutors. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 30(1), 9-20.

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