Peer-Mentoring Across Cultures: an Embedded Curricula Initiative

Griffith University, Australia

Michelle BARKER
Griffith University, Australia


One of the effects of globalization of HE is that, increasingly, students enter higher education from multiple pathways and diverse cultural backgrounds. These pose challenges for students, academics, managers and professional administrators. Recognition of this phenomenon by several academics at a large, multi-campus metropolitan university in Australia led to the development of the Local Aussie Mentoring Project (LAMP) which aimed to embed a mentoring program into a second-year course of an undergraduate business degree. This paper analyses the outcomes of the applied research/curriculum initiative that emerged out of a consideration of the complex learning needs of different student cohorts. The research team was concerned about how students from diverse backgrounds learn about university systems, assignment and tutorial requirements, the university community, and the broader Australian culture. At the same time, the team sought opportunities to enhance students' mentoring skills in a course that hitherto had focused on conceptual knowledge only. The LAMP program was embedded in existing coursework and assessment because the researchers believed that mentoring programs as 'add-ons' have limited effectiveness.

Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from both mentors and mentees. This paper concentrates on the qualitative phase. Both mentors and mentees valued the social experience and perceived the mentoring process to be far more than the transmission of knowledge and skills. Central to the experience was socializing, and building friendship through conversation. Overall, the importance of learning to communicate across cultures was appreciated. This paper will also consider the potential for the emergence of a 'third space' as an outcome and the implications for an increasingly culturally diverse HE sector.

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