Mentor-mentee Wellness Project at Stellenbosh University
At first-year level our university utilises plus minus 580 trained mentors to guide approximately 5000 first-year students during their first six to nine months at university. This psycho-social support aims to enhance wellness, to develop positive psychological factors that affect academic achievement and to create a "flourishing" campus culture. This project is known as the BeWell Mentor Wellness Project and has been running on the campus of Stellenbosch University since 2013.
Wellness cards are used by mentors during 10 to 12 one hour sessions with their mentees to facilitate growth and positive discussions. All mentors and mentees are also supported by their own individualised and secure wellness websites (their membership sites) with assessments, ebooks, audiobooks, e-workshops, tracking tools for card sessions, journals, profile pages and personalised leaderboards. Online well-being enhancing activities currently include e-workshops on wellness, grit and growth mindsets, and a gratitude and happiness journal. Mentoring sessions are logged by both mentors (compulsory) and mentees (voluntary).
BeWell is a good example of a FlourishWell4Life @ Education application / membership. Mentors and mentees (first-year students) automatically gets access to their membership sites once they are registered on the BeWell system. The introductory website for mentors and mentees can be viewed here and the management information system for residential managers and head mentors here.
The diagram below gives an overview of participation during 2014, it also lists the multimedia contents available on each member's personalized wellness web site and it shows the engagement with the system during 2014. Our mentors are trained during September and October each year and their mentoring responsiblities start at the beginning of the academic year late in January and lasts until the end of August each year. If we assume that a mentoring session lasts for at least 30 minutes we can say that our mentors engaged with their mentees non-stop for at least 116 days (5582 sessions divided by 2 to get the numbers of hours, divided by 24 to get the number of days)! Huge amounts of qualitative and quantitative data were also collected.
For an educational membership like BeWell we typically want to determine whether a positive change in success rates occurs(performance), whether the members (students) have grown in terms of specific graduate attributes, or another desired outcome like wellness (development) and whether they enjoyed the experience or not. Quantitatitve, qualitative and mixed methods research tools are utilized to measure these three outcomes.
The preliminary indicators are that BeWell did indeed have a positive impact on the academic performance of our first-year students, but we have also realized that this is a very complex issue wih many angles (and many variables) to consider. Another very interesting exercise was to utilize all the available data in a mixed methods environment and to determine the best composition of a mentoring group. We chose to use Dedoose for all our qualitative and mixed methods research topics. As is also indicated in the diagram below, Dedoose was also used to determine if our mentors did in fact grow in terms of our university's graduate attributes and wellness goals, and also to evaluate the positivity of their whole BeWell experience. The quantitative session ratings of both mentors and mentees were very high (above 80%) and the encouraging news is that mentees actually rated the sessions higher than the mentors themseves (very positive feedback for mentors!).
A meaningful application of data analytics within this environment is to identify "non-academic" predictors of academic performance, and to use this information to further improve the developmental resources offered to the membership. The data from 2013 and 2014 confirmed what other researchers world-wide have found: Grit, a growth mindset and a well balanced wellness lifestyle are all important predictors of performance at university level, and more students should be encouraged to utilize the available BeWell resources on these topics.
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