Podcast: Peer mentoring for CHE (with Jac Cattaneo)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hello, and welcome to our first #collegeHE podcast for the AoC Scholarship Project. This podcast is an interview with Jac Cattaneo, Scholarship Development Manager at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College.




Jac talks us through a peer mentoring trial she facilitated, describing how its particular construction is designed to facilitate the building of a student community of practice, with students working in groups to support their peers. This fostered students developing valuable negotiation and teaching skills as well as supporting individual ‘deep’ learning through reflection. You can read Sue Messingham’s initial case study of a pilot course here.

Join in the conversation
Jac and I will be around on the comments thread here and invite you to be part of the conversation. If there’s anything you’d like to ask Jac, you can also tweet a question, using the hashtag #collegeHE and @jaccattaneo in the tweet, or email Jac at jacqueline.cattaneo@gbmc.ac.uk.


About Jac

Jac Cattaneo is Scholarship Development Manager at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College. A Senior Fellow of the HEA, her pedagogic practice has included lecturing in Cultural Studies on the B.A. (Hons) Fine Art course at Northbrook College as well as teaching on the M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Her pedagogic research explores the intersection of the visual and the verbal, and investigates ways of engaging Creative Arts students with the process of writing. Her projects have included Visual Assessment (funded by Learnhigher), Patchwork Writing (awarded a Centre for Learning and Teaching Fellowship) and Create Curate Collaborate, multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional research in collaboration with the University for the Creative Arts. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and journals and she is currently undertaking a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. The Student Peer Mentoring Project is part of her work on the AoC’s Scholarship Project.


  11 comments for “Podcast: Peer mentoring for CHE (with Jac Cattaneo)

  1. SarahCrowson
    January 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Jac,
    I have had an email question about the peer mentoring scheme. Do you think that the scheme could grow to support sustainable collaboration between students across disciplines, or do you think it works well because students stay in their own discipline?

    • Jac Cattaneo
      January 23, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Hi Sarah –
      I’d say both. PASS works well within a course, because second year students have had such a recent experience of their first year modules and are able to help students in a hands-on way. However, mentors from different courses do train together and meet up with each other during the year. This helps them to reflect on the uniqueness of their own discipline, as well as sharing strategies that could work for other courses.
      A mentor could run a PASS session in any discipline by using the facilitation skills they are taught: re-directed questioning, wait time, buzz groups etc. During our training, a Sports Coaching student facilitated a discussion for Creative Music Production peers!

  2. Wendy Crum
    January 23, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I am very interested in introducing a peer mentoring scheme to enable students to develop their independence and self-efficacy within our institution.

    Did you find it difficult to identify students who had the personal skills necessary for mentoring, or did you follow a particular criteria?

    I would consider boundaries and confidentiality key in the success of such a process. How did you address this area with students, please?

    • Jac Cattaneo
      January 23, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Hi Wendy –
      There are two schools of thought in PASS regarding student recruitment; these were debated when I did my supervisor training. One method is to select mentors through an interview process, or by asking tutors to identify likely candidates. This method was popular on academic courses, where there was a fear that students who were struggling might not be able help as much as they should.

      The second approach is to accept all students who volunteer, which is what I have done. On creative, practical and vocational courses, students have a wide range of gifts and abilities, some of which might actually emerge in their role as mentor. One of the students who trained as a mentor found that the reflection needed to facilitate sessions for the first years helped him make sense of modules he had battled with in his first year. His grades subsequently jumped from Cs to As which his course leader put down to his involvement with PASS! The first years enjoyed his input, because he was honest about the elements which hadn’t gone well for him.

      Boundaries and confidentiality are indeed essential to the process, and something we discuss thoroughly in mentor training in relation to ethics and safeguarding. I ask students to identify situations which should be kept within the confines of the group, and situations where they would need to pass something on to a member of staff. Out of our discussions we identify a code that all mentors should follow. As with all PASS training, this works best when this is discussed and defined together with the students involved. I have regular debriefs with them, so that they can talk through any issues they are having. They are also supported by their tutors and the NUS if necessary.

      • Wendy Crum
        January 29, 2018 at 9:19 am

        Hi Jac,

        Thank you for your detailed response. It certainly shows how the initial groundwork you undertook helped to facilitate a positive provision for students, whilst also enabling the student mentors to develop their own skills and abilities.

        I would certainly be interested in putting this into practice within our institution.

        Kind regards,

        • Jac Cattaneo
          January 29, 2018 at 1:10 pm

          Thanks, Wendy. Good luck with it and do get in touch if I can help in any way.

          • Wendy Crum
            January 31, 2018 at 12:58 pm

            Many thanks, Jac…and I will certainly be in touch.

  3. Phil Miller
    January 26, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Do the student mentors receive any sort of recognition for their participation within this scheme? e.g. is it listed upon a diploma supplement, or is their a certification etc. something that they can take forward to employers?

    • Jac Cattaneo
      January 29, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Phil –

      That’s a good question, and something that’s really important to our students. Our NUS is linked to the NUS at the University of Brighton, our validating HEI. At the end of the year give out certificates to all the PASS mentors at a celebration event in Brighton. We’ve also talked for additional awards, like ‘Mentor of the Year.’
      I know some institutions offer academic credit, and I’ve even heard of a case where mentors were able to obtain Associate Fellowship of the HEA.

      Students are encouraged to add their mentor roles to their CVs and to tell employers about their transferable skills, such as leadership, planning and group facilitation.

  4. Jen Lawrence
    January 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

    This is really interesting work. What advice would you give to a CHE teacher hoping to set up a peer mentoring programme?

    I like this SCHE format – flexible, accessible, time to think abut the issue and rich and considered response. Neat!

    • Jac Cattaneo
      January 29, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks, Jen! The advice I would give to someone wanting to set up a peer mentoring programme would be:
      1) Find the enthusiasts in your institution and work with them – managers, tutors and students.
      2) Start small – choose two or three courses to pilot the scheme.
      3) If possible, attend supervisor training from Lund University – they run workshops in the UK. Otherwise find places where the scheme is running and forge links. Join the PASS Jiscmail
      4) Recruit Level 4 students in April and run and introductory session in May/June. Follow up with more in-depth training as soon as they are back in September/October
      5) Make sure course leaders are on board and work with them to introduce the mentors to the new first years. Help them to break the ice.
      6) Have regular debriefs with the mentors to help, support and advise – and gather lots of feedback. The students will make PASS their own. They are amazing!

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