What motivates student mentors? Recently, two students Stefan Konst and Ylva Datema from NHL Stenden University conducted a study to find this out. This research was carried out for the European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring (ECEBM) to investigate what motivates student mentors in different countries across Europe. Additionally, they were curious to investigate the value student mentoring has for the mentors, its social added value, and cultural differences between student mentors. The findings of this research substantiated the fact that an increasing number of young people are realizing the importance of student mentoring and their responsibility for helping others in their society.
The ECEBM has identified that students from higher vocational education are often not aware of the role and responsibility they have towards young people in their society. It is important to make young people in secondary schools aware of the benefits of higher education due to doubts they have about joining higher education. They lack role models in the form of student mentors who can successfully dispel these doubts and communicate the benefits higher education can have on their lives and within their communities. This lead to a lot of missed opportunities for the youth in European societies. This can be changed if more students in higher education are motivated to become student mentors and share their experiences with students in secondary education.
This research seeks to increase awareness amongst European students about the added values of being a student mentor and motivate them to become student mentors. This study focused on the target group of young student mentors in higher education. Utilizing semi-structured interviews, the study interviewed 8 respondents, from four different European countries, Spain, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands. Subsequently, these research results were focused on identifying the added value of student mentoring for the mentors, what motivates them, the societal values of student mentoring, and cultural differences in motivation between the different European countries.
The added value of being a student mentor
Student mentoring can provide added value to the student mentors themselves besides helping mentees and doing volunteering work. One of the most substantial benefits is the self-development of the mentors. It was quite interesting to find out that they develop several competencies while working as a student mentor; kindness, emotional competencies, perspectives, listening skills, and improved communication. Finally, for many student mentors, it can be a very fulfilling experience and can contribute to their professional CVs.
Motives for becoming student mentors
Interviews with the 8 student mentors indicate different motives which the respondents have for becoming student mentors. The two most prominent motivation factors driving the student mentors were identified as volunteering and motivation to help mentees grow and develop. Besides those, the students are also motivated by their own experiences from being a student mentee, education-related reasons, and improving their communications.
This research also explored the motivations to remain as student mentors. The most powerful motivators to remain as a student mentor were found to be the friendships that the student mentors have developed, the ability to help others, and seeing the progress the mentees make due to their work and support. Besides these, being student mentors also bring them a lot of their happiness and creating awareness about the benefits of student mentoring within their communities.
Social value-added by student mentoring
Student mentoring can also bring positive outcomes to society, which is known as the social value-added. Besides what it brings to the mentors and the mentees themselves, student mentoring can contribute to society by bringing in quality higher education to more people. Additionally, an increasing number of younger people will receive higher education about issues such as sustainable development, human rights, cultural diversity, etc. helping the whole society to develop themselves, be more inclusive and think ahead into the future.
Additionally, student mentoring can also contribute to the good health and well-being of members of the community. In some parts of the world, youth are at risk of being involved in crime, drugs, or prostitution. Student mentors can make the children aware of such risks and create awareness about the positive effects of good education and good jobs. Proper advice from the student mentors can contribute to their health and well-being.
This study identified other far-reaching benefits of student mentoring within the society such as fair work and economic growth, promotion of gender equality, minimizing inequalities in the society, professional development of students, and minimizing poverty.
Cultural differences in the motivations of becoming student mentors
This study concluded that the motivations of student mentors from different European Countries are quite similar to each other without any significant differences. While the social issues they are trying to tackle are different, they are all motivated by the same factors; performing voluntary work to help their societies and supporting the growth and development of the mentees. Student mentoring also results in the mutual development of both the mentors and the mentees. This self-development is a major added motivation for the mentors themselves.
In summary, student mentoring is a powerful strategy for improving prospects of youth joining the higher education system through sharing the experience of higher education students with the youth. In many societies, the youth are uncertain about their place in the world which can lead to many missed opportunities. At the same time, a lot of higher education students are choosing to become student mentors to inspire and guide the youth in their societies to make better decisions in their lives. The study conducted by Ylva and Stefan explored what motivates these student mentors, what the added value for the mentors are, the overall benefits to the society out of student mentoring, and the influence of cultural differences between European countries on this motivation. Their findings can be utilized to motivate more university and higher education students in becoming student mentors; helping the youth in their society and subsequently, bring in benefits to their society.
This research was conducted by Stefan Konst and Ylva Datema in collaboration with:
Student mentoring programme at the University of Nicosia (CY)
Coordinadora Mentoria Social (ES)
Big Brothers Big Sisters Bulgaria (BG)