Bridge the Gap peer mentoring: reflections and actions
The Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) awarding gap refers to the significant disparity in degree class gained by BAME students compared to their white peers (Surridge, 2008; Singh, 2011; NUS, 2019). While the phenomena is well documented, there is limited understanding of why BAME students do not perform to their full potential.
Academic capability is strongly tied to feelings of belonging and fitting-in, and distinct differences between minority ethnic groups within the BAME category, in relation to factors that affect their engagement and attainment, are also highlighted by research (Connor et al., 2004; Dhanda, 2010).
The influence of peer support upon social integration and senses of belonging are well documented (Kauser et al., 2021). As is peer mentoring in improving the success, retention and educational experiences of students in HE (Terrion and Leonard, 2007). With this in mind, and to ensure that the individual voices of specific groups with the LJMU BAME student community were heard, we launched the Bridge the Gap Mentoring Programme in January 2022.
10 current LJMU students, home and international, were employed as project mentors. The programme focussed on understanding the ‘lived’ student experience at university, including what challenges they face in their day-to-day studies (progression) and how the curriculum, university environment and teaching and assessment approaches at LJMU affect their performance. Mentors offered guidance and support to mentees, and gathered anonymised data about mentees’ experiences, successes and challenges.
In this workshop we present, in collaboration with project researchers and mentors, themes from mentoring sessions and lessons learned from engaging with BAME students, specifically around promotion and messaging. We invite participants to discuss and outline how we can embed peer mentoring across the institution, ensuring that hard-to-reach and at-risk students are able to benefit from semi-structured peer support that peer mentoring offers. At the same time, ensuring that we continue to develop a deep institutional understanding of the barriers that could affect academic performance and success.
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