An Exploration of the Characteristics of Effective Undergraduate Peer-Mentoring Relationships

May 2013

Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 21, No. 2, 219–234, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of peer mentoring of undergraduate education students enrolled in core curriculum, writing-intensive courses.

The context for this study was the use of peer mentors in undergraduate education writing-intensive courses in the education department of a large university in the southwest.
The participants were thirteen students, who were selected for the role of undergraduate peer mentors (UPM) by the writing-intensive instructors.
The peer mentors who had previously taken the courses were selected and trained as undergraduate peer mentors to work to facilitate students’ learning and achievement with required writing assignments.

Data were collected through three surveys:
Undergraduate Peer Mentor Ranking Survey (UPMRS), which was designed to examine students’ vs. mentors’ perceptions of characteristics most critical in mentors’ support of students’ achievement in writing-intensive education courses.
The UPMSS was administered only to students mentored in the program. It was aimed to examine student learning benefits of the undergraduate peer-mentoring program. For the student survey measuring perceptions of writing (UPMSS), 370 surveys were included for analysis.
The final survey, the Undergraduate Peer Mentors Survey (UPMS), was administered to mentors only. It was designed to examine how the program impacted mentors’ academic, emotional, and interpersonal skills.

The findings indicated that there were similarities and differences in what students and mentors considered to be important characteristics of a peer mentor. Both students and mentors said that knowledge in the field of writing and good communication skills were the most important characteristics of a UPM.
In addition, it was found that students ranked prior mentoring experience, trustworthiness, and same gender as being the least important while UPMs ranked availability, prior mentoring experience, and same gender as least important. The findings indicated that gender of the UPM is the least important of the 10 characteristics presented to students and mentors.

Furthermore, there was a difference between students and mentors perceptions regarding prior mentoring experience. Although students as well as mentors ranked it in the bottom three, significant differences were found between the two groups with students ranking it higher than mentors. The authors argue that a student seeking guidance from a peer mentor may feel someone with prior mentoring experience would be better equipped to provide support, and thus, they would be more likely to give this characteristic a higher ranking.
Additionally, differences were found in how students and peer mentors ranked communication skills, supportiveness, and trustworthiness. The peer mentors ranked these inter- and intrapersonal aspects of peer tutoring higher than students.

Moreover, the results revealed the major constructs of a peer mentor program that students found most beneficial. The students mentioned feeling more comfortable going to their peer mentor for help and feeling less intimidated than if they had asked their instructor. The authors argue that students were very receptive in submitting their work to the peer mentors and to discuss related issues in the writing-intensive class due mainly to the nonevaluative role of the mentors. In addition, the findings on the UPMS indicated that participating in the UPM program resulted in several benefits to peer mentors as well.


The authors conclude that peer-mentoring programs have potential in achieving positive academic results for university students learning how to use written communication more effectively in required coursework. These benefits are enhanced when students are linked with mentors who have previously taken the courses they are mentoring and who have career fields common to the mentees. Based on the students’ and the mentors’ perceptions, the undergraduate peer mentoring program established at this university appears to have been successful during its first year of implementation and worthy of continuation. 

Updated: Feb. 21, 2018