Maths support provision has been widely introduced at universities alongside university courses and has become an integral part of the university environment. The type of provision varies across countries and universities, often limited by academic staff availability and other resource constraints. A variety of peer mentoring schemes have emerged which offer junior students help with maths related modules. Senior students often act as peer mentors providing learning support.
There is a growing volume of literature that demonstrates the effectiveness of peer mentoring (e.g. [1, 2]) as a form of learning support provision. It is aimed at decreasing students’ drop-out rate, improving students’ performance in ‘high risk’ courses, and developing students’ competences and skills [3-5]. Peer mentoring is underpinned by social constructivist learning theories [e.g. 6, 7], which emphasise that learning is constructed in an interactive social context. As a result, students who collaborate with their peers and take an active approach to their learning earn higher grades and develop a deeper understanding of content. Peer mentoring has become widely used in the higher education environment.
The paper evaluates two models of peer mentoring and analyses their effectiveness in providing maths support for students studying maths as a core subject and for those students for whom maths is a supplementary discipline. The first model represents an embedded learning support where senior students from the same course act as peer mentors, following the course curriculum and guiding students through the problem-solving process, working in small groups. The peer mentors run weekly optional sessions and students are encouraged to attend. The second model represents the learning support in a form of drop-in sessions run by peer mentors. The students can book a forty-five-minute time slot with a peer mentor or just turn up and seek help with their course material. The drop-ins are offered several times a week and are normally run by postgraduate students. However, this model of peer mentoring is not embedded into course delivery. Instead, students attend the sessions themselves as and when they think they need help.
This study analyses the impact of the two different types of peer mentoring maths support on students’ learning experience, academic performance and on developing subject-specific and generic competences essential for their further study. The study evaluates what positive experience can be adapted and offered as a model of maths support to the students on maths-intensive and less-maths-intensive programmes. This study demonstrates that both organisational and pedagogical aspects should be considered when choosing the most appropriate model of peer mentoring. The study is carried out at University West, Sweden and Lancaster University, UK and is part of on-going collaboration between the two universities [8-11].
The objectives of the study are:
- To evaluate the impact of the embedded and ad hoc type peer mentoring schemes on students’ learning experience and academic performance
- To evaluate the impact of the two peer mentoring schemes on students’ competence development in using maths tools.
- To analyse the challenges academic and teaching staff face when implementing different types of peer mentoring schemes.
1. Topping, K.J. 2006. Trends in peer learning. Educational Psychology 25, no. 6: 631–45. 2. Dawson P., Van der Meer J., Skalicky J., Cowley K. “On the Effectiveness of Supplemental Instruction: Systematic Review of SI and Peer-Assisted Study Sessions Literature between 2001 and 2010”, Review of Educational Research, 2014, vol. 84, No 4, pp.609-639 3. Hurley, M., Jacobs, G. and Gilbert, M. 2006. The basic SI model. In Supplemental instruction: New visions for empowering student learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 106, ed. M.E. Stone and G. Jacobs, 11–22. San Francisco, CA: Wiley. 4. Malm J., Bryngfors L. and Morner L. 2012. Supplemental Instruction for improving first-year results in engineering studies. Studies in Higher Education Vol. 37, No 6. Pp 655-666. 5. Ning N.K. and Downing K. 2010. The impact of supplemental instruction on learning competence and academic performance. Studies in Higher Education Vol. 35, No 8. Pp 921-939. 6. Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 7. Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. The growth of logical thinking. New York: Basic Books, 1958. 8. Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E. “Developing Competences Using Problem-based Learning: a Case Study of Teaching Mathematics to Computer Science Students”, Journal of Research in Teacher Education, 2007, No 3. pp. 13-21. 9. Luchinskaya E, Nilsson G., Kristiansson L., “Higher Education in Change: Peer-assisted learning applied to Mathematics and Physics for engineers”. ECER 2010, Helsinki, Finland, 2010. 10. Luchinskaya E, Nilsson G., Kristiansson L. “Increasing university students’ motivation to improve maths knowledge in a workshop environment”. ECER 2014, Porto, Portugal, 2014. 11. Nilsson G., Luchinskaya E, and Kristiansson L., “Enhancing students’ performance in maths through Supplemental Instruction”. ECER 2017, Dublin, Ireland, 2016.
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