Peer Mentoring and Identity Formation in Higher Education: An Autoethnographic Study

Yu, Rainie Fengyi
Schoone, Adrian
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Master of Education
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Auckland University of Technology

This autoethnographic study concerns a Peer Mentor’s identity development through the experience of peer mentoring. It aims to expand our understanding beyond instrumental notions of peer mentoring within the current higher education literature. It draws from my 10 years’ involvement in a peer mentoring programme at a large New Zealand university, first as a Peer Mentor and now as a Peer Mentor supervisor. This autoethnography explores the peer mentoring programme through looking inward at myself and understanding how the programme culture became embedded in me and manifested in my practices. The primary research method involved writing a series of seven letters to my best friend about my professional practice and setting out my reflections on my work as a Peer Mentor supervisor. An analysis of the letters arrived at four themes, which are Seeing myself in the Peer Mentors, A ‘big sister’ becoming a Peer Mentor, Peer mentoring as part of a Peer Mentor’s development journey, Feelings and intuition vs. rules and structures. These findings suggest that a Peer Mentor tends to draw heavily on herself and her embodied experiences when working with others. Her mentoring of the Other^ is informed by her whole being, including who she is as a person, how she sees and understands her role as a Peer Mentor, as well as what kind of person she wants to be, in relation to the Other and herself. These findings bring to light three characteristics integral to a Peer Mentor: courage, care and integrity. Moreover, peer mentoring is ultimately an experience of subjectification. This study concludes that peer mentoring affords a Peer Mentor not only the experience to contribute to another student’s journey of higher education, but also an intersubjective space for her to come to understand her own uniqueness. In her response to the otherness of the Other, the Peer Mentor recognises her irreplaceable uniqueness. When she responds with her unique voice, her subject comes into presence.

Peer mentoring , Identity formation , Autoethnography , Letter-writing as method , Mentoring , Higher education , Subjectification , Character virtue
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