Empowering International and Culturally Diverse Honours and Project Students Through Mentoring Activities
Edith Cowan University
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Computer and Information Science
This paper reports on an initiative to develop a successful school based student mentoring program in the context of a Computer Science based school which has a high proportion of international and culturally diverse student population. A review of literature was made of three areas of research related to mentoring and peer support. This provided evidence for the role of mentoring and peer support in empowering student learning, with particular emphasis on how mentoring can provide both social and academic support; on the role of mentoring in different contexts; within the Computer Science field and within an international and culturally diverse education perspective and finally on the role of and qualities required by the mentor in the mentoring process. The paper examines the findings from an email based survey of current and former members of student mentor group which has existed since 2003. The questionnaire was categorized into five sections including demographic information, factors influencing choice of the group, reflections onthe mentoring experience (joining the group, project activities), on commitments and skills development (commitments, interpersonal/interaction, improving skills) and additional support services. The overarching finding from the research was that the mentoring experience was a positive one for both mentor and mentees. The mentor group provided a supportive respectful environment which could offer both academic and technical skills development and provide social support. Students also identified the most important qualities and obligations that the mentor group leader should provide to include, subject knowledge and technical expertise, and quality traits of trustworthiness, intercultural understanding and friendliness. From the research findings a framework was proposed to support the implementation of a school based mentor group program. This is seen as beneficial to project and research students especially in an international and culturally diverse student population.