Ms Dawn Jones1, Ms Kate Artz1
1Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
During 2016-2017, the REACT initiative (Realising Engagement through Active Culture Transformation) has been investigating student engagement across fifteen universities in the UK. A core focus has been on collaboration, co-creation and co-development as pillars of the student voice and of students as change agents. Such is the context and inspiration for the establishment in 2017 of the Deakin Student Mentor Community of Practice which also aims to enhance leadership capabilities and provide a space for the mentoring community to learn together and exchange local expertise. This presentation will explore the evolution of the community of practice for student mentors across the university and its relationship with and contribution to the Students Helping Students Community of Practice for peer support co-ordinators. Informed by the work of Etienne Wenger-Trayner and Beverly Wenger-Trayner the presentation will illustrate how the community of practice approach is an ideal vehicle to support not just student engagement but also the development of agency, courage, confidence and grit. Leadership will be explored as a learning concept, an unfolding and a loosening that is nurtured by a commitment to listening and to a willingness to be heard. With the Wenger-Trayner Myths about Communities of Practice in mind, the need for training, monitoring and support for mentors will be discussed, as will approaches for appropriate reward and recognition of mentors’ work. The role of the facilitator, rights and responsibilities, and the level of autonomy of the mentors will also be considered as steps on the path to the integration of academic, social, practical and personal peer support into the mainstream university culture.
Dawn Jones is the Team Leader, Peer Support (Student Academic and Peer Support Services, Division of Student Life) and Kate Artz is the Coordinator of the Students Helping Students Hub at Deakin University. Together they established the Deakin Student Mentor Community of Practice and also facilitate the Students Helping Students Community of Practice which brings together all the peer support programs (academic, social and practical) from across the university and supports them to support each other. They are responsible for the Coordinator Development Program which provides training and professional development for the peer support coordinators. With their immediate team in the Division of Student Life they run PASS, Maths Mentors, Success Coaches and the Students Helping Students Hub Mentors.