Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 20, No. 2, May 2012, 271–290
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The goal of this study was to evaluate a peer mentoring program in a graduate school setting. More specifically, mentoring functions and outcomes among graduate students were assessed, along with an analysis of graduate school peer mentoring program characteristics.
The sample included 39 psychology graduate students at a small private liberal arts university in the Midwest. Incoming students were asked to participate as protégés in a peer mentoring program, while current students were asked to volunteer as mentors. The purpose of the peer mentoring program was to pair incoming students with current students to help their adjustment into graduate school.
A total of 20 mentors and 19 protégés completed the evaluation.
An initial match form was distributed in July 2008 to match mentoring pairs based on similarity. Matching variables (demographics, professional interests, personal interests, personality, and desired mentoring outcomes) were chosen based on what was suggested to match mentoring pairs on in the literature.
This study contributed three main findings.
First, the present study was a first attempt to quantitatively analyze specific mentoring function and outcome relationships in a graduate school setting.
The findings revealed that five mentoring functions were found to significantly correlate with relevant outcomes. These results add to the academic mentoring literature by identifying mentoring subfunctions that were highly correlated with specific outcomes among graduate peer mentoring program participants.
Second, certain mentoring functions and outcomes were found to be more prevalent than others. Results indicated psychosocial assistance, networking help, and relational outcomes were reported most among participants. Students reported networking help and psychosocial assistance, specifically acceptance and confirmation, as a program strength.
These findings indicate that psychosocial assistance and networking help are the primary functions found to be provided in this instance of graduate mentoring. It is recommended that future program implementers make these two functions main objectives of the program, encourage mentors to provide protégés with these assistance types, and/or organize events which foster these functions such as planning social and networking activities.
However, pair compatibility and mentor preparation were not found to be essential program characteristics.
Furthermore, students mentioned schedule conflicts and lack of communication as weaknesses of the program. They emphasized having difficulty making time to meet with the mentor or protégé. To remedy this issue, participants suggested the program implementers provide mentoring pairs with more events and mentors with more structure. Program implementers are recommended to provide several planned activities and encourage mentors to be proactive in contacting their protégés.
In conclusion, this program evaluation contributes to the current research on mentoring. Past research has examined mentoring functions, benefits, and program characteristics; however, little research has investigated these aspects in specific settings.
A variety of mentoring function— outcome relationships were found as well as mentoring functions and outcomes most reported among graduate students. Although pair compatibility and mentor preparation were not found to be essential aspects to include in graduate peer mentoring programs, they are program characteristics worthwhile to investigate in the future.