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Introducing the case: mentoring first-year students

Introducing the case: mentoring first-year students
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Hello, my name is Robbert van Veen And I’m am Nikki Haze. We both study at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, and our former mentors. For two years we accompanied groups of first year students during their first steps at our university. In this case study, we’d like to think with you about the role you can fulfil as a mentor, and how dealing with confidentiality can challenge those rules. The role you have as a mentor enforces set of tasks and responsibilities on the one hand, and personal style on the other. The tasks you are given as a mentor within the organisation differs for faculty, or even by study programme.
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In our case, we were both assigned a group of 10 first year students whom we had to make comfortable at our faculty. We introduced them to many aspects of student life, and held regular, small group teaching sessions about study progress. Additionally, before the start of the academic year, we organised an introduction camping trip for all first year students. There are also many styles you can use when guiding a group of first year students. When giving advice to a group you can act as an expert, an advisor, or a moderator. At a personal level, when talking to students directly, you might behave as a coach or a counsellor.
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The style you develop as a mentor depends heavily on the needs of the group, and on your personal preference of a certain style. However, all styles are valuable in their own way, and there is no right or wrong here. Have you gotten it already, what role you play in mentoring a group and how this came to be? Or in the case you’re preparing for your mentorship, what leadership style feels most natural to you? In this case study, we’d like to use two examples to stress the importance of reflecting on your role as mentor. Both examples deal with your role as mentor in a situation where you have to deal with student confidentiality.
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Imagine you are appointed a mentor after passing your first year with flying colours, and have just been assigned a group of 10 first year students. After meeting with them for the first time, you immediately start feeling comfortable in your new role as mentor. In our first example you got acquainted with everyone in your group informally. Then one of the students come to you with a personal issue. You already know he’s falling behind with his study and might fail his first year. He tells you he might be depressed, which obviously affects his results, but asks you to keep this to yourself. You wonder if he is seeking help. What would you do in such a situation?
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Do you think you should inform a professional in your organisation about this? For our second example, imagine you feel all of the first year students in your group are doing well, and none face major challenges. Again, one of your students comes up to you with a personal issue. She tells you she feels she’s being approached negatively during class by one of her teachers, who she feels does not let her engage in any discussion. She even feels she’s being treated unfairly in grading, because her fellow students all got higher grades on their oral exam. She likes you to be her counsellor and give her advice, and entrust you with the details of the situation.
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What would you do in such a situation, and how would a specific style you have developed as a mentor influence the situation? In the next step we would like you to reflect on these examples, and connect them to the topics from week one and four. Do you know how to deal with confidentiality? Which protocols are in place at your organisation? What roles do you think a mentor should have, and what are the limits to the responsibility of a mentor?
In this step, Nikki and Robbert will introduce you to the fifth case study: mentoring first-year students.
As a mentor, you provide guidance and advice to fellow, although younger, students. Behaving in a professional way is therefore a crucial aspect of mentorships.
Find out more about the case study by watching the video.
View Nikki’s profile on FutureLearn.
View Robbert’s profile on FutureLearn.
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