Our project is designed as a research and development process that will, after the three years of Big Lottery funding, produce a research-informed model of mentoring capable of being replicated in other schools and across the country.
Intergenerational mentoring is gaining momentum as an intervention and our research is being drawn on to help inform and generate other projects at a national level. Our research is concerned with the usefulness of mentoring, the forms and practices it needs to adopt and, crucially, identification of and a detailed understanding of the processes by which these young people are placed at a disadvantage as they seek progression into higher education and employment.
A research-informed examination of intergenerational mentoring illuminates more precisely the reality of inequality and the ways in which some young people may struggle to engage with institutions and institutional processes with which their more socio-economically advantaged peers are more familiar and less intimidated.
Our work at the University of Strathclyde has advanced the ways in which intervening in widening participation to higher education and supporting retention of these students whilst at University can be informed, developed and progressed through research. Read our initial paper on the emergence of the project and its early contribution to the landscape of widening participation.
Current and forthcoming research
We have recently submitted a journal article exploring the mentor’s role in establishing a mentoring relationship. Drawing on case material from the project as a whole, we present descriptions of three levels of mentor suitability: relational experts, relational learners and non-relational mentors, discussing implications for training and recruitment. This follows on from US research on mentoring relationship quality (Thompson & Zand, 2010), and particularly Pryce’s (2012) work on levels of mentor attunement . The abstract for our paper can be read here: Mentor suitability and mentoring relationship quality.
A key focus for project research going forward is to look at the intersection between social disadvantage and mental health. Many of our mentors report that pupils are dealing with high levels of stress, associated physical symptoms, and mental health issues such as panic attacks. We know from previous research that stress impairs the ability to learn (Schwabe & Wolf, 2010), and that school-based counselling has a positive impact on attainment by reducing stress and thus improving concentration on school work (Rupani et al, 2012). We will report on interviews with mentors and pupils about their experiences of stress and the impact on their mental health, discussing how social disadvantage may contribute to this problem.