Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Supple, B.
Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA)
Showcase presentation: Learners as experts and students as staff: What can we learn from a student peer-writing space?
Melbourne, Australia
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
The Writing Space at VU is a support program coordinated by academic staff in the Department of Academic Support and development. In 2015 The Writing Space will operate on four campuses, and will employ 14 student mentors. Student Writing Mentors work in pairs twice a week in this drop in consultation space located within the library. Student Writing Mentors are ‘near peers’ who have demonstrable interest and facility in academic writing, an ability to engage peers and learn collaboratively, and experience as university students. Student Writing Mentors are employed at a HEW 2.1 level and are paid for 9 hours of work per week which consists of 2x4 hour shifts (or ‘sessions’) plus an hour additional to cover attendance at one 30 minute developmental workshop per week plus contribution to an online platform. Since its inception in 2011, we have been collecting data on the use of the service, and engage student mentors in a process of reflection through progress interviews at the end of semester. The evidence we see coming through our data time and time again is the added sense of engagement and connection expressed not only by the users of the service, but the mentors themselves. The development of the student peer mentors over time has become of interest to us as in their role they are positioned simultaneously as learners and experts, students and staff. Insights gleaned from participants during the progress interview process reveal important insights to us as academics in terms of how the complexities of working in this role help students make sense of their feelings about future career choices and employment prospects. Data from notes taken during semi-structured interviews of current student writing mentors will be analysed as well as feedback collated from anonymous survey by both past and present student mentors, some of whom have graduated and are now pursuing post-graduate study and/or working. Conference sub-theme relevant to this presentation is Navigating uncertainty and complexity • How do we develop learner resilience in a world of complexity? • What are the skills and dispositions required to access, filter and critically engage with new knowledge and new ways of knowing? The role as a student peer mentors is fraught with tensions – being at once learner and expert, student and staff member. These are just a few of the complexities faced by students in this role. The presentation will address how learner resilience in a student peer mentor role is developed through navigating the inherent complexities of the role of student peer mentor, while unpacking the skills and dispositions as suggested by the mentors themselves, which have helped them in their academic journeys. Skills such as being open to different styles of learning and working with students from different backgrounds and abilities; engaging with fellow learners and content from different disciplines, and learning to do this through the medium of written academic language.