Peer Mentoring Training
Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager – VOICES, and
Penny Vincent, Senior Lecturer Community Engagement and Community Partnerships – Staffordshire University
From co-production to co-delivery
VOICES worked with Expert Citizens and Staffordshire University to coproduce an accredited Peer Mentoring course at level 3. Our collaboration developed over six-months. This was between myself for VOICES, Penny Vincent of the University, with Rachele Hine and Michelle Daniels leading for Expert Citizens. Rachele and Michele used their know-how to steer the group with the design of the course as we co-produced every aspect of content during the development phase. In July 2017, the first pilot course began to live test the content with six-students. Penny describes the process, outcome, and next steps:
“I am privileged to have a role at Staffordshire University which involves me in developing community partnerships for mutual benefit. I have met people from Voices and Expert Citizens on various occasions since 2014: in connection with the 1000 Lives Network and with Staffordshire University’s CHAD centre on a research project of City Centre Street Activity. Co-production is my specialism – I am a community development worker by background, so I was thrilled to be able to work closely with Rachele, Michelle and Sharon, with my colleague Louise Rutherford to develop a new level 3 course designed specifically for peer mentors. The Creative Communities Unit at Staffordshire University has been creating and running level 3 courses in a range of community work topics for around 10 years including community research and skills for active citizens. Louise and I, along with an experienced coach and lecturer Anne Revell, ran the Peer Mentoring course over 6 days with 6 Expert Citizen participants from July to September 2017. We offered students the opportunity to study the course with or without a qualification. Six learners took part in the course, and everyone had a workbook to complete during class workshop sessions and self-study tasks between sessions.
During the course, students were very open and discussion flowed very easily. Everyone had lots of experience to share. The enthusiasm and willingness to learn was inspirational. We were delighted to hear how excited some learners were about having the opportunity to come to Staffordshire University, visiting the University library and their local library. It was clear that this made people feel valued. I learnt as much from the Expert Citizens as they did from the course. Louise and Anne said at the end of the last session that they left “feeling uplifted!”
Five learners completed enough of the course to be able to hand in their workbook for assessment and all of them passed. We were very impressed with the quality of the learners work, in particular the level of reflection by some learners was of a higher standard than we usually see from students on degree courses. One learner created a brief guide to Peer Mentoring for VOICES peer mentors to use. We were so impressed with it that we plan to use the guide when we run the course in future. Another learner is embarking on the Step up to Higher Education course in January 2018 with a view to looking at funding for a degree.
We held a review meeting in late September, and agreed some changes to the course structure and handbook to make sure that learners feel supported to practice their mentoring skills between workshop sessions. Our plan is to run the course in April 2018, with each of the five learners who completed the course co-teaching a session. The next step is a celebration event in December, to give learners their certificates and to hear from them about their reflections on their experience. I can’t wait!”
The outcome of this work is a new and accredited peer mentoring course at level 3 that has been designed by the target learner audience. By working in partnership with Staffordshire University and Expert Citizens, VOICES is helping to ensure the accessibility and sustainability of the course for years to come. As well as a team of appropriately skilled Peer Mentor volunteers, our hope is that this accessible experience of University tuition, will help people to gain employment and create a potential bridge to higher education. So far, we are very optimistic.