Student peer mentoring programs harness the collaborative endeavours of experienced students as a way of supporting the learning of less experienced students. As a vital component of higher education learning support strategies, the fundamental principle behind student peer mentoring programs is that they are made available to as many students as possible, targeting difficult subjects and not difficult students. Student peer mentoring programs are strategically positioned so as to assist all students, whether they are students who are struggling or students who are academically gifted. Student peer mentoring programs utilise student knowledge and collaborative strength rather than focussing on individual academic weaknesses, and are regularly evaluated; the results of which consistently reflect positive impacts upon student engagement, student transition and student retention.
Demographic data regarding uptake of Student Peer Mentoring programs is collected each semester, and identifies ‘equity groups’ such as students from low-SES backgrounds, first-in-family, indigenous students and those from Language Backgrounds Other Than English. At VU, collecting of such data has taken place over a number of years. However collection of information about students with a disability at VU is only starting in 2015. While anecdotal reports have been received from student peer mentors regarding working with students with disability, a more formalised approach would be invaluable in informing future program development for student peer mentors in working with students with a disability.
Any student can find the transition to university daunting and for school leavers many challenges exist including adapting to independent living and learning, living away from home and new learning contexts; all of which can be compounded by disability.
The symposium will explore the ways student peer mentoring programs can provide another avenue of support for students with a disability, and how student peer mentors can best be trained and supported in their roles in working with these students.