Developing a successful ‘buddy scheme’ across undergraduate cohorts

Report from Alex Reid – Department of Psychology, University of York

Link to session recording (UoY log-in required).

On November the 2nd 2020 Caroline Chaffer, Jo Hawksworth and Jane Neal-Smith from the University of York Management School (UYMS) ran a highly informative online workshop for the Teaching and Learning Forum on a recent ‘buddy scheme’ developed and implemented in their Department. This scheme provided the structure and framework for students to partner up across undergraduate cohorts as mentors and mentees, sharing knowledge and expertise on “how to be a student”. In this workshop we heard about how this project was developed and piloted, the extent of it’s current implementation, and ultimately how successful it has been.

The scheme was initially established with the aim of working in partnership with undergraduate students to facilitate and support the transition of new students into their first year at university. The remit was focussed heavily on enhancing student performance, personal growth and establishing expectations in relation to new challenges faced in the university environment.

The main role of the management school was in the initial set up of this scheme, in particular providing appropriate safeguards and support. Beyond this point the buddy scheme was relatively ‘hands-off’ in terms of admin, with student collaborators doing most of the heavy lifting. More specifically, in setting up this project the UYSM:

  • Recruited undergraduate mentors and mentees to take part.
  • Defined clear roles and responsibilities to all participants involved (including a small degree of training).
  • Provided day-to-day support (if needed).
  • Monitored the overall progress and success of the scheme.

For the pilot phase 45 1st year mentees were recruited and given access to 14 mentors from more advanced cohorts. Mentors were provided with clear training, day-to-day support, and vouchers for tea and coffee for ‘buddy meetings’. Once the scheme was set up and rolled out it was evident that it was well-received, particularly by international students who felt it really helped ease their transition to the new university environment. Mentors reported that the scheme helped foster a sense of community, reinforced learning, and provided a framework for structural and emotional support.

Currently the scheme has been extended to all undergraduate cohorts in the UYMS, and there are presently 59 mentees and 46 mentors, with many students actually fulfilling both roles. While this is an ongoing phase of the project with no data (and a large disruption from COVID), it remains clear that overall it is a positive initiative with many genuine friendships having been established across UYMS cohorts.

If setting up a similar scheme yourself the following advice was made by Caroline, Jo and Jane:

  • Establish a dedicated email address for the mentors and mentees involved.
  • Don’t recruit 1st years too early, wait until they are on campus.
  • Focus on the setup – once initiated the scheme takes care of itself and students actually preferred this ‘hands off’ approach from the Department.

If you wish to find out more you can view the slides for this talk.

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