Embedding mentoring (curriculum case study)

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Peer-to-peer student mentoring programme, Mentor Me, Mentor You, encouraged students at London College of Fashion (LCF) to develop both as mentors and mentees to explore possibilities for co-creating opportunities.

The project, made possible by the Curriculum Development Fund, was a pilot across two areas of student work on the BA Fashion Management programme. It was planned and implemented across Career Planning (employability), a series of non-credit bearing activities that operates alongside the curriculum, and the Fashion Enterprise Management (enterprise) unit.

The programme aimed to enhance student experience by creating resources that support the course team in embedding a mentoring programme. It was hoped that these resources would include additional support for mentees, co-creation opportunities and skills development for mentors.

Find out more about the Curriculum Development Fund.

Design and approach

Year 2 and Year 3 students could volunteer as mentors and collaborate with Year 1 peers in one of two ways:

  1. Year 3 placement and or intern experiences to aid Year 1 students' career planning.
  2. BA Fashion Management Year 2 students would share their experiences of operating a start-up business as part of the Fashion Enterprise Management (enterprise) unit with Year 1 students who were about to engage with the unit the following year.

Implementation

The programme implementation stages were:

  • creating and agreeing a project brief
  • course team and members of the delivery team reviewed the initial programme design, subject matter and available options
  • the delivery team hosted a 'Train the Tutor' session, where content and session plans were adjusted
  • potential student mentors from Year 2 and Year 3 students were recruited
  • 'Introduction to Mentoring Skills' workshops
  • mentees were matched with mentors
  • mentees and mentors were provided with supervision
  • the delivery team and mentors hosted a summative workshop to evaluate the programme strengths and areas for development
  • mentors were given the opportunity to gain a nationally accredited qualification in mentoring skills
  • the project was evaluated throughout the process at regular checkpoints.

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Challenges and implications

The advantages to the programme's approach included design by a subject area specialist with funded capacity, while full-time teaching staff undertook the programme delivery.

The strengths of this approach included an investment of time to create the resources and support materials with the potential to be rolled out across different University settings. The project team and other full-time staff delivering the programme ensured longer-term sustainability as they experienced running the programme and facilitating the workshops.

This provided a base for the delivery of future support and running future 'Train the Tutor' workshops from a position of experience and knowledge.

The project team and full-time staff provided a clear rationale (and adjustments made where necessary) on the developed resources and their functional need within the programme. They also supported the matching of mentor with mentee, as full-time staff were familiar with the students concerned.

Of the key learning from the project, particular points were noted by the project team:

  • consider timing when launching similar projects – in this project, the Introductory and Summative workshops were held at very busy times for students
  • create milestone checks (or drop in sessions) to support mentors in the mentor-mentee relationship and in case of challenges
  • plan how the benefits of participation to both mentor and mentee are explained - mentors clearly identified that they gained significantly more from the programme than the opportunities explained
  • integrate formal feedback from mentees into the evaluation process - one limitation of this pilot was that only informal feedback was gathered from mentees
  • include a meet and greet session for mentors, where mentors and mentees meet together and gain a common understanding of the aims and objectives and programme framework
  • extend mentoring meetings from 30 to 45 minutes - this gives mentors longer to practice their skills and could add value to the mentee as they have more time
  • consider the length of programme, from recruitment to closing down the relationship - mentors thought the programme was too short and fitting the required number of meetings in added a burden of time and also reduced effectiveness of the relationship
  • clarify the criteria for matching mentors and mentees - in the pilot, mentees bid for a mentor and the module leader created the match. Consider other criteria that could be used to match people.

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Outcomes

16 students volunteered to mentor their peers. Ten were recruited to the Career Planning activities and six to the Fashion Enterprise Management unit. All mentees and mentors worked one-to-one. Overall a total of 36 students were involved in the programme, mentoring a total of 21 peers.

Support materials produced by this programme included:

  • a scheme of work
  • session plans
  • a learner/student/mentor workbook
  • additional reading and bibliography
  • additional handouts to be used, for example, contracting, planning, accreditation and self-assessment.

A physical resource in the form of a toolkit is available that includes all the necessary learning and activity resources for use in workshop delivery, for example, activity cards, and all the resources were designed to fit other contexts within the University.

For further information on the Mentor You Mentor Me project and toolkit please contact:

Liz Gee l.gee@fashion.arts.ac.uk 

Heather Pickard h.pickard@fashion.arts.ac.uk.

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Future developments

The project was successful, although it engaged only a relatively small number of students as both mentees and mentors.

With earlier and more detailed briefings, the implementation could have a wider appeal to students. As the results of the first iteration are available, subsequent applications of the resources and materials could be used across the programme and in a wider context.

The project team indicated that there was the potential to run a coach/mentor training session for all tutors undertaking a pastoral role. The project team suggested that using the materials, resources and overall training approaches could make a real difference to the value of termly personal/pastoral tutorials.

This would be in addition to existing career planning sessions, where mentoring could be offered to students in both Year 1 and Year 2.

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