Academic journal article Education

Experience of Dormitory Peer Mentors: A Journey of Self Learning and Development

Academic journal article Education

Experience of Dormitory Peer Mentors: A Journey of Self Learning and Development

Article excerpt

Experience of Dormitory Peer Mentors: A Journey of Self Learning and Development

In the last two decades, the number of university students in Taiwan has quadrupled from 300,000 to more than 1.2 million (Ministry of Education, 2015). In the recent academic year, the enrollment of freshmen has exceeded 250,000. As a student's success in their university career is largely affected by the experiences during the first year, administration ought to support initiatives designed to help freshmen succeed (Miranda, 2011). It is crucial for counseling and educational personnel to assist freshmen to adapt to the campus life. Research shows that, with the assistance of senior students, freshmen are better adjusted and more ready for academic challenge (Chou, 2003). Peer mentoring can happen in many situations, such as dormitory, departmental offices, and labs; however, dormitory is being one of the most important (Chen, 2008). The mentoring relationship is not only beneficial to freshmen but also helpful to their mentors (add a reference here). Prior studies often focus on its effectiveness on mentees (e.g., Chen, 2008) but with little discussion on the effect of this experience on peer mentors. This study interviews twelve students at a university in northern Taiwan to discuss their one-year experience as trained peer mentors and the impact on their learning and development.

Dormitory Experience and Student Development

The trend of dormitory management transferred from physical equipment to students' needs. The building and remodeling of dormitory provided comfortable and satisfactory physical environment to students, while the living rules helped them foster an environment that was beneficial for learning and caring. Pascarella and Terenzin (1991) compared the difference between freshmen living in traditional and learning-oriented dormitories, and found that those living in the latter had better problem-solving and critical thinking abilities, and performed better in the cognition tests.

In Taiwan, Chen (2008) believed that interpersonal interaction, learning experience, and the atmosphere in the dormitory could effectively explain the positive development of freshmen. Chen (2008) suggested universities should initiate learning programs that fit the needs of students and foster the learning atmosphere in the dormitory to provide freshmen with an environment of co-operative learning in both academic and interpersonal relationships. Lu (2004) discussed the dormitory living experience of 1,026 students from 17 universities in Taiwan and its effect on their psychosocial development where participants believed that dormitory experience had a positive effect on knowledge sharing and room-mate relationships. University dormitory residents recognized the positive effect of dormitory living in interpersonal interactions, emotional support, harmony and tolerance, organizational order, student autonomy, and knowledge acquiring (Lee, 2004; Wang, 2005). A learning-oriented dormitory could help the growth and development of students, especially in enhancing their interpersonal relationships, independence, emotional management, and sense of ability.

Peer Mentoring

Peer mentoring can be defined as a helping relationship in which two individuals of similar age and/or experience come together, either informally or through formal mentoring schemes, in the pursuit of fulfilling career-related and psychosocial functions (Kram, 1983). The two parties are roughly equal in age, experience, and power to provide instrumental and psychosocial support (Angelique, Kyle, & Taylor, 2002). Peer mentors are a group of semi-professionals (Ender & Kay, 2001) who are selected and trained purposely to execute services of increasing the learning and working effectiveness of peers (Hamid, 2001).

In higher education, peer mentoring is often regarded as an effective intervention to enhance the success and retention of vulnerable students, and to assist student academic performance and decrease student attrition (Terrion & Leonard, 2007). …

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