Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Learners as experts and students as staff: What can we learn from a student peer-writing space? (#40)

Briony Supple 1
  1. Victoria University, Melbourne

The Writing Space at VU is a support program coordinated by academic staff in the Department of Academic Support and development. In 2015 The Writing Space is operating on four campuses, employing 14 student mentors. Student Writing Mentors work in pairs twice a week in this drop in consultation space located within the library.  Student Writing Mentors are ‘near peers’ who have demonstrable interest and facility in academic writing, an ability to engage peers and learn collaboratively, and experience as university students.

Student Writing Mentors are employed at a HEW 2.1 level and are paid for 9 hours of work per week which consists of 2x4 hour shifts (or ‘sessions’) plus an hour additional to cover attendance at one 30 minute developmental workshop per week plus contribution to a collaborative, reflective online platform.  Since its inception in 2011, we have been collecting data on the use of the service, and engage student mentors in a process of reflection through progress interviews at the end of semester. The evidence we see coming through our data time and time again is the added sense of engagement and connection expressed not only by the users of the service, but the mentors themselves. The development of the student peer mentors over time has become of interest to us as in their role they are positioned simultaneously as learners and experts, students and staff.

Insights gleaned from participants during the progress interview process reveal important insights to us as academics in terms of how the complexities of working in this role help students make sense of their feelings about future career choices and employment prospects. For this project data from notes taken during semi-structured interviews of current student writing mentors will be analysed as well as feedback collated from anonymous surveys by both past and present student mentors, some of whom have graduated and are now pursuing post-graduate study and/or working.