I’m about to start work on a small-scale qualitative study to explore the motivational and learning benefits of (near) peer mentoring for a team of PhD student mentors. In my role as Head of Learning and Teaching Development in a UK university, I oversee a scheme in which PhD students are recruited and trained to act as essay, dissertation writing and language advising one-to-one mentoring tutors to undergraduate and Masters students. The scheme is underpinned by a Vygotskian perspective whereby it is assumed that learners advance their thinking and understanding through interaction with a more competent peer (see for example, Mynard & Almarzouqi, 2006). Our evaluation processes indicate that the scheme is highly valued by UG and PGT students. However, we know little about any benefits for the PhD students who act as mentors and so I’m hoping to be able to shed a little more light on these.
Mynard, J. & Almarzouqi, I. (2006) Investigating peer tutoring. ELT Journal 60 (1), 13-22.
I recently presented at the London Language Show on behalf of Routes into Languages with Irena Holdsworth from Routes South West and Sarah Schechter from Routes East. Our presentation: What Routes into Languages can do for you and your school focused on exciting projects that help to take languages out of the classroom and is now online.
Recently I led a workshop on motivation for PhD students at the University of Southampton as part of the Faculty of Humanities doctoral research training programme. While developing the workshop content and deciding what to include, I found it interesting and also useful reflecting back on my own motivation when I was a part-time PhD student. I remember it as very challenging – somewhat ironic really given that my thesis focused on motivation in language learning. Of course, the motivation for starting a PhD is not the same as the motivation required to get to the end – it’s important to make this distinction. The effort and persistence needed to keep going when the going gets tough can result in students losing sight of the reasons for embarking on the PhD in the first place. I know it was like that for me.
In the end, my workshop covered the reasons for doing a PhD and the benefits associated with it and we then looked at some of the principles that might be involved in keeping motivated to the end:
- Managing your time
- Looking after yourself
- Knowing when and where you work best
- Planning and managing tasks (including setting goals)
- Collaborating with others
- Engaging with the concept of flow
- Developing strategies to help you through the tough times
- Reminding yourself of why you are doing a PhD in the first place
My PowerPoint presentation from the workshop is available on Humbox