A Semester in My Shoes: A Reciprocal Mentoring Project

Sarah Churchill (Sheffield Hallam University)
Melissa Jacobi (Sheffield Hallam University)
David Rogerson (Sheffield Hallam University)
Swetha Tripathi (Sheffield Hallam University)

Monday, April 3, 2023 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM

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Session Outline

We explored the lived experiences of students belonging to minoritized groups in relation to the Academic Advising (AA) relationship through a reciprocal mentoring project. Five staff-student pairs mentored each other during a series of scheduled meetings focused on key themes around Academic Advising. Students were required to self-identify as belonging to categories highlighted institutionally as being minoritized. Of those groups, students in the study identified as belonging to one or more of the following groups: racially minoritized, international, having caring responsibilities and mature students. Pairs aimed for four meetings over a semester. Meetings were supported by suggested “getting to know you” activities and discussion prompts about the role of the AA, experiences of the students and staff, and effects this could have on engagement with Academic Advising. Finally, staff and students took part in separate focus groups and qualitative data were analysed using Framework Analysis (Furber, 2010).

Ten main themes emerged. Some themes related to personal factors (The Student Journey; Being an Outsider; Prior Lived Experiences of Academic Advising) whereas some were linked to institutional factors (The Academic Advising Model; Clarity of the AA Role; and Institutional Support Services). Remaining themes (Staff Constraints; Student Engagement; Relationships; Study-Life Balance) sat within the interplay between personal and institutional domains.

Most issues discussed were applicable to all student groups, however the students in this study did identify factors related to their belonging to a minoritized group that affected their ability to engage with their studies and with Academic Advising. This included feeling like they were an outsider and having difficulties integrating into a UK HE system. The study revealed several barriers and facilitators to having a good Academic Advising experience which affords institutions and individual AAs an opportunity to develop an inclusive Academic Advising Experience. At a personal level, Academic Advisers should be encouraged to challenge their own biases and assumptions; employ active listening skills, take a non-judgmental approach and aim to eliminate preconceived ideas of their students’ journeys; AAs should focus on the developmental purposes of Academic Advising (i.e. a non- deficit approach) and should “see the individual” when working with students. Institutions should focus on expectation setting as a priority for new students; consider embedding Academic Advising in the curriculum and having staff retain their Academic Advisees for the duration of their studies where possible as well as offering staff development opportunities aimed at helping staff to understand their students in the broadest sense. This session will identify changes delegates could make in their own institution which may positively impact the student experience.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness