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Near-peer mentoring is a common teaching practice where a senior learner guides a junior learner. The proximity of skills and experiences of near-peer mentors generate a deep level of relation and understanding of mentee needs, allowing mentors to provide effective learning strategies. This connection between mentor and mentee enhances mentee learning, confidence, and motivation. However, the benefits of near-peer mentoring for the mentors are less clear. To understand the benefits of near-peer mentoring for mentors, we collected data from near-peer mentors who participated in a Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics summer camp. The summer camp was a weeklong remote paper mechatronics camp designed for incoming seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students. Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field that combines electronics, computation, and mechanics and thus provides a high ceiling for creative design. In contrast, paper mechatronics focuses on inexpensive paper components and craft parts to create a low barrier for student entry. The camp was grounded in culturally sustaining pedagogy to promote learning, identity development, and sense of belonging to STEM. It consisted of two key components: near-peer mentors and storytelling. Near-peer mentors were the primary facilitators for the students. The mentors were two undergraduate engineering students responsible for designing the project curriculum, testing, developing student support, and facilitating most of the sessions throughout the summer camp, with supervision from faculty members. The students created two machines, the Walking Jansen and the Up-and-Down Crank. Furthermore, students were encouraged to use their personal experiences and identities to tell stories through their projects. To assess the benefits of near-peer mentoring, we asked What did near-peer mentors gain from creating and facilitating the summer camp? We collected two forms of data to address the research question 1. Daily journals kept by the mentors during the camp, and 2. Semi-structured interviews. The analysis reveals considerable benefits for the mentors: Mentors developed essential teaching skills, their belonging to STEM improved, and mentors practiced consolidation. The results highlight the extensive benefits of near-peer mentoring. Near-peer mentoring is a valuable enrichment opportunity to supplement undergraduate core engineering education.
Rayford, T., & Ruedas-Gracia, N., & Goldstein, M., & Schimpf, C., & Hebert, L., & Escamilla, L., & Zavala, J. (2022, August), Educational Enrichment: The Benefits of Near-Peer Mentoring for Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/40697
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