Brief description of WIL activity
Third year psychology students complete one full day of mentoring training (a TAFE Accredited certification) followed by two hours of mentoring a week for two 10-week school terms (46 hours of placement in total). Students then mentor high school students who are facing profound challenges through a mentoring program managed by a small not-for-profit organisation, Raise Foundation. The aim is to develop supportive one on one relationships between mentors and mentees, for student mentors to be a positive role model and assist mentees to identify and achieve their goals. Mentoring is undertaken within various schools located in Sydney.
Project Lead, Dr Wayne Warburton and Project Author Dr Anna Rowe, Macquarie University
Full details of 'Youth Mentoring'
Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation
The mentoring activity in partnership with Raise Foundation has been running for one year, however the unit PSY399, of which this activity is embedded, has been in operation since 2011.
Who benefits from the WIL activity (name all relevant stakeholders)?
Students gain one-on-one mentoring experience and attain a TAFE accredited certification in mentoring, as well as completing 46 hours of placement experience (typically students enrolled in PSY399 undertake a substantially shorter placement of 32 hours). The high school students benefit from mentoring provided by the psychology students (e.g. they have access to a supportive relationship) which benefits the wider school community, including mentees’ families. The partner Raise Foundation benefits from access to appropriately trained volunteer mentors who are generally close in age to the mentees. The university benefits as PSY399 is a large unit with high student numbers, and the activity has the potential to provide placement experiences to a high number of students.
How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?
The activity demonstrates good practice in that it is mutually beneficial to the student, community, partner and university; it is an authentic learning experience whereby students are situated within a high school environment; it involves applied learning whereby students practice the skills and knowledge acquired throughout their psychology degree to a ‘real world’ context working with young people; it is adaptable to and potentially transferrable to other contexts (e.g. other disciplines and/or large cohorts of students); there are strategies in place to evaluate partner and student experiences / satisfaction. To align with the timing of the program (i.e. across school terms 2 & 3, Apr – Oct), an innovative approach was taken, engaging with Psych students early in the year to offer this placement opportunity (Psych student placements normally run Aug-Nov). An Expression of Interest process was run, students were selected and then had to commit to the training day and preparation for the placement. This was great preparation and set them up for success on placement.
How adaptable is the WIL activity to other disciplines, sectors, teaching practices etc?
The activity is highly adaptable to other disciplines, which is particularly important at Macquarie University where the majority of WIL experiences are provided through an institution wide program called PACE (Professional and Community Engagement). The activity could readily be taken up by students from other disciplines (e.g. education, management, health) who have an interest in engaging with young people or mentoring.
How sustainable is the WIL activity beyond its immediate implementation?
The activity is highly sustainable and could potentially provide WIL opportunities for large cohorts of students.
How is the success of the WIL activity evaluated?
Since the inception of PSY399 in 2011, industry/community partners have been invited to complete a partner satisfaction survey at the end of each placement period. Student feedback is also obtained via a survey. As this activity is relatively new it has not been formally evaluated yet, however informal feedback from the partner, participating students and mentees is overwhelmingly positive, and attests to the impact of the activity on both the community and participating students. Earlier results (between 2011-2014) show over 90% of PSY399 partners to be satisfied across four aspects of the placement process: a partnership agreement, developing an activity statement, complying with WH&S requirements and hosting student.
What are the wider impacts of the WL activity beyond completion?
This activity is having positive impacts on the teenaged mentees, their school communities and families. The mentees develop skills in goal setting and planning, and start to focus on life beyond school and beyond their immediate problems. The fact that the mentors are students who have been through the high school experience relatively recently means there is a real understanding and connection between the mentors and their mentees.
How does the WIL activity approach the preparation, implementation and reflection phases of WIL?
The placement activity is supported by weekly lectures and tutorials, with lectures focusing on preparing students for professional practice, while tutorials guide students through the process of producing outcomes related to their activity, examining dilemmas in professional practice, assisting with arranging and completing placements, providing guidance on practical skills (e.g. knowledge integration, reflection), and debriefing on placement experiences. Formative assessments include completion of ethics and work health and safety modules, as well as weekly reflections on undergraduate coursework, specifically on how the different sub-disciplines in psychology link to their placement experience, and on ways students will use their psychology major in their future endeavours. Students are required to submit a placement report (as an assessable task) reflecting on all elements of their placement experience.
What are the learning outcomes of the WIL activity and how do they link to graduate attributes?
The activity is associated with a number of learning outcomes including: using skills and knowledge acquired throughout a psychology degree in a ‘real world’ context, developing new practical skills and knowledge over the course of a volunteer placement, integrating and synthesising knowledge from various psychology sub-disciplines, critically reflecting on the link between the various sub-disciplines in psychology and the placement experience, as well as the student’s own learning in psychology and its application to professional and ethical practice. Associated with this are opportunities to develop the following graduate capabilities: critical, creative, analytical and integrative thinking; communication and problem solving skills, as well active citizenship attributes, e.g. being engaged local and global citizens.
What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?
This activity ran for the first time in 2016 and was very popular with students. Plans are in place to extend the activity by offering more student placements. As part of the Continuous Improvement approach, there will also be increased preparation, resources and support provided to students to ensure the placements are as successful as they can possibly be.