An Assessment of the Impact of the Mentoring Programme on Student Performance
The University of Venda introduced an academic mentoring programme in 2012. The introduction of the programme was in response to the results of a national study that was conducted by Scott, Yeld and Hendry (2007). The study was replicated at institutional level and it yielded similar results that indicated that at least 30% of undergraduate students drop out at the end of their first year. Using Margaret Archer’s morphogenetic framework, this paper seeks to assess the impact of the programme on students’ performance. The key question asked in this study is: ‘What impact has the mentoring programme made on the academic performance of students in the Department of Communication and Applied Language Studies?’ This department formed part of this study because the module lecturer was among the first few who exercised her agency by consciously volunteering to join the programme with the hope that it would improve pass rate. The pass rate improved from 80% to 92% the first time the programme was implemented and it has been high ever since, while the students in that department have continued to embrace the programme. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were adopted for this study. Qualitative data consisted of an open-ended questionnaire which was used to collect data from forty-five mentees. Interviews were also conducted with ten mentees, three student mentors, the Media Studies (MST 1541) lecturer and the educational development practitioner (EDP). From the forty-five questionnaire respondents, only ten mentees were also interviewed to confirm responses that were given in questionnaires before the researcher had reached saturation point. Quantitative data were collected through a comparison of module results for 2012 and 2013. The MST 1541 classes in 2012 and 2013 were taught by the same lecturer, who confirmed minimal changes in terms of content and teaching methods which could have influenced the improved pass rate in 2013. The study concludes that the mentoring programme contributed to improving student success. However, the study only focused on one causal mechanism, namely mentoring. It is therefore recommended that a broader study be conducted to evaluate the impact of additional causal mechanisms. Furthermore, the researchers recommend improved monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to curb the inconsistencies and irregularities reported by the mentors, mentees, lecturer and educational development practitioner
Keywords critical realism; mentoring; retention; social realism; success; student performance; student support
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