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Peer mentoring_PRAXIS Full Project Report Template - Danielle Pullen.docx (102.32 kB)

Peer to peer mentoring network for younger learners on Level 1 modules in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics – impact and challenges

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posted on 2024-06-28, 09:55 authored by Danielle Pullen, Sylvia Warnecke, Lilian Winkvist-Woods

This project investigated the potential impact of student peer-to-peer mentoring on retention and success, in particular for students commencing their studies in the Open University’s (OU) School of Languages and Applied Linguistics (LAL). It was part of a wider initiative across LAL advocating student community building, strengthening a sense of belonging and establishing a robust support network among the School’s student population. In particular, the project addressed one of the priorities of the Office for Students’ Access and Participation Plan for underrepresented groups in HE, namely to ‘ensure access leads to participation on high quality courses and secures good graduate outcomes’ (OfS, 2022).

In addition, the project aligns with the OU’s student success priorities: ‘delivering a high quality and flexible student experience with high levels of student satisfaction; and supporting students to achieve positive career and personal development outcomes’ (OU, 2020, p. 10). These strategic priorities have encouraged the establishment of a wider movement towards enabling student peer support at the OU as exemplified in scholarship reports by Robson and Hutton (2019), Kubiak and Snowden (2020) or Di Malta and Moller (2021) to name the most recent examples.

The peer-to-peer mentoring was piloted across two School of LAL Level 1 modules, L101 Introducing English Language Studies, and L161 Exploring Languages and Cultures. It focused on younger learners, a group who are increasingly choosing the OU for their Higher Education (HE) study. We investigated how this cohort of students felt about embarking on HE study in the OU’s distance-learning environment, how they succeeded in ‘finding their feet’ during their first year of being an OU student, what challenges they faced and how they overcame these, and in what way the support of a peer mentor aided their progress. At the same time, we investigated what motivates students to become peer mentors, what skills they bring to the role and what mentors see as benefits of supporting others during their study.

Initial insights from the pilot project underline that younger students do benefit from a mentor who provides pastoral support during their first year of study and who has gone through similar experiences in the past. The analysis and findings from our pilot project informed the rolling out of our peer-to-peer mentoring across all the School of LAL Level 1 modules from the start of the 2022J presentation onwards, keeping a focus on young students but expanding it to those students who have been highlighted in the University’s Access and Participation Plan (APP) as belonging to under-represented groups in the OU.

The project explored how students who have a peer mentor engage with and benefit from the mentoring process. Moreover, we learned more about the support needs that are met by the peer mentoring programme and those that we still need to address in order to provide more rounded and targeted support for our new OU students. At the same time, we established the benefits for peer mentors, their motivation and support needs.

Overall, the pilot project highlighted that mentees have found the relationship with a mentor to be highly positive and a useful support mechanism in the early stages of their OU studies. Mentors have benefitted from the relationship too, acquiring new skills which improve their confidence as well as employability skills and have made them more reflective practitioners.

Another important aspect of the pilot project was to investigate how all aspects of such a mentoring programme could be set up, how the relevant training can be delivered to mentors and how mentors and mentees can be matched effectively. This report will highlight the issues we came across in the pilot phase in recruiting sufficient numbers of mentor and mentee volunteers and the lessons the project team have learned from this experience.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Central
  • Associate Lecturers

Institutional priority category

  • Achieving Study Goals
  • Students Learning Experiences


  • Awarding Gaps
  • Completion of a Qualification
  • Retention
  • Student Academic Experience
  • Student Satisfaction
  • Student Experience
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Peer Support/Mentoring

Subject discipline

  • Languages and Applied Linguistics

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