Connecting Transitions and Independent Learning: the impact on mentors


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There is growing interest in student peer-mentoring as a way to enable new students to tackle the perceived cultural, academic and social boundaries associated with the first-year of study in higher education. This presentation explores the experiences of a group of level 2 student mentors, focusing on their communication with level 1 mentees using negotiated technologies.

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Connecting Transitions and Independent Learning: the impact on mentors

  1. 1. Connecting Transitions and Independent Learning Richard Hall (, @hallymk1) Heather Conboy (, @heaths123)
  2. 4. e-learning rarely seen as separate or special mix of personal and institutional technologies advanced networking choice, access and control Complexity and blurred boundaries: an “underworld of communication and information sharing” Trying to understand the formal landscape
  3. 5. Ravensbourne, 2008
  4. 6. CoTIL project: headlines <ul><li>HEA e-Learning Research Observatory </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges of transitions: adapting to cultural and academic expectations; socialisation; contact with significant others; moments in time </li></ul><ul><li>The impact of read/write web technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Expand pedagogic borders beyond the classroom, campus and VLEs; radical or progressive pedagogies </li></ul><ul><li>Connectivism and personalisation - mentors rather than management </li></ul>
  5. 7. Borders and boundaries: Giroux <ul><li>the concept of borders provides a continuing and crucial referent for understanding the co-mingling-sometimes clash-of multiple cultures, languages, literacies, histories, sexualities, and identities. Thinking in terms of borders allows one to critically engage the struggle over those territories, spaces, and contact zones where power operates to either expand or to shrink the distance and connectedness among individuals, groups, and places </li></ul>
  6. 8. Mentoring: research questions <ul><li>What strategies were deployed by students in the use of technologies for personal, social and academic purposes? </li></ul><ul><li>What were the student experiences of using these technologies? </li></ul><ul><li>What attributes of the technologies did they relate to particular mentee responses? </li></ul><ul><li>What type of independent study skills were developed by mentors? </li></ul>
  7. 9. Mentoring: research methods <ul><li>Humanities: 24 mentors and 130 first year mentees from Education Studies and Media Studies. </li></ul><ul><li>13 mentor logs of student communication identified: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>approximate times of communication; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the rationale for the use of specific technologies; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>any perceived benefits and disadvantages. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The research was based on action research with participants, in order to offer insight for future enhancements and development. </li></ul><ul><li>20 students provided verbal feedback in mentor-mentee meetings and focus groups </li></ul>
  8. 10. Selection of technologies: mentor hopes <ul><li>Mentors : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>considered themselves conversant with web-based technologies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>felt themselves to be good 'on-line social networkers‘ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>asked to have an area for communication set up on the VLE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ a positive sign of [our] legitimate role within the institution” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>act “based on the response we got from our mentees” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I let my mentees decide which form of communication to use. I offered many choices but the mentees felt more comfortable using [face-to-face, student email and VLE]”. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 11. Selection of technologies: mentor frustrations <ul><li>communication with students depended on their continually prompting </li></ul><ul><li>“ training on how to access it and use it to their advantage” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think first year students should be encouraged to check their email and blackboard accounts more often, as I know this was something I didn't realise the importance of upon beginning university” </li></ul><ul><li>“ because our Facebook group had been successful we decided to stick with one community to communicate” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nobody wants to be first to write on the discussion board” </li></ul>
  10. 12. So, institutional or social tools? <ul><li>VLE = familiarity; ‘legitimate’ activity; administrative convenience. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This preference related more to the mentors' intentions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social tools = chatty and informal; can be more critical. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ it was important that the mentees did not feel intimidated by the scheme, which was why we decided to use Facebook” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No greater engagement from mentees using social tools. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ as time went by without contact we resorted to any methods available” </li></ul></ul>
  11. 13. Mentor issues <ul><li>The lack of first-year student responses was due to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a lack of interest; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>an inability to formulate useful academic questions and queries; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a lack of recognition of the role that mentees could play; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ they were being lazy”. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>An element of mentor-desperation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Issues are not technological; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First-year students did not take advantage of opportunities; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perceived to be the failure of the mentees to appreciate the good advice; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A rejection of opportunities to learn independently </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Benefits should be more widely disseminated and impressed. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 14. Matters arising <ul><li>Social engagement and affective learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;it has been very rewarding for me, knowing that I have eased other peoples fears with regard to all aspects of the course.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Boundaries: mentors as stakeholders in an institutional scheme. However, being linked to the ‘institution’ might deter mentees from participating, and this impacted their selection of technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>Mentors having to ‘push’ their services and expertise. </li></ul><ul><li>More structured and earlier training, including on creating and maintaining communities, and emphasising the benefits for mentees. </li></ul>
  13. 16. A nice AAD example: Game Art Design <ul><li>Use of Blackboard to structure programme and all modules </li></ul><ul><li>Development of student blogs across all 3 years; sharing of student resources and mentoring </li></ul><ul><li>[ first year blog second year blog group project blogs ] </li></ul><ul><li>Use of Facebook to enable students to own and share work </li></ul><ul><li>The overall environment is focused upon spaces for student interaction, reflection, autonomy and sharing </li></ul>
  14. 17. Some references: 1 <ul><li>Anagnostopoulou, K. and Parmar, D. (2008) Practical Guide: bringing together e-learning and student retention, Middlesex University & University of Ulster, </li></ul><ul><li>Broad, J. (2006) ‘Interpretations of independent learning in further education’, Journal of Further and Higher Education 30(2), 119-43. </li></ul><ul><li>Giroux, H. A. (2005) Border crossings: cultural workers and the politics of education (2 nd edn.) Oxon: Routledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Glasgow Caledonian University (2008) Learning from Digital Natives Project, HEA, </li></ul>
  15. 18. Some references: 2 <ul><li>Green, H. & Hannon, C. (2007) Their space: Education for a digital generation. London: DEMOS. </li></ul><ul><li>Ravensbourne (2008), Learner Integration : </li></ul><ul><li>University of Ulster (2008) Student Transition And Retention Project. </li></ul><ul><li>Yorke, M and Longden, B. (2008) The first-year experience of higher education in the UK (Phase 2), HEA. </li></ul>
  16. 19. Licensing This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license See: