G. Gaedke

FHWien University of Applied Sciences (AUSTRIA)
In Higher Education a variety of peer-mentoring programmes exists. They are often used to guide and support students through the first year of studying. The main reasons for such mentoring programmes are to reduce first year attrition or to support the student for the transition to the professional life. Existing research and experience is focused on universities and colleges for full-time students.

This study evaluates a peer-mentoring programme, which is set in a part-time study programme for Human Resource Management. The mentoring is scheduled within a course in Knowledge Management and takes one semester. The aim of this programme is to give the 5th semester students the opportunity to train the mentor role themselves and to develop competencies like verbal and nonverbal communication or counselling. The first year students should get acquainted with the academic organisation and needs. Since part-time study programmes combine theoretical input and practising, the main focus of the mentoring programme is the knowledge transfer and the competency development from both mentor and mentee.

The programme has been conducted since three years. Approximately 60 students each year participated. In a qualitative study the reflection of the mutual learning process, the content and the process of the programme was evaluated. For the evaluation the students, both mentors and mentees, had to deliver a reflection paper, answering a set of questions. The content analysis was conducted with atlas.ti. Based on the results the mentoring programme has been adapted every year.

The evaluation and the results indicate a possibility to develop competencies through the mentoring process for the mentors as well as for the mentees. On the other hand some results showed barriers of the programme, like the obligatory participation. Also the fact of the employment of both partners influences the process, since the students cannot meet very often.

Regarding the process the results approve previous studies, whereupon mentoring schemes can be problematic, especially if expectations and objectives of the programme are not clearly understood by the mentor and the mentee. The other aspect, how practising mentoring can develop competencies course-related, needs further discussion and research.