If you’re in the education space, you may have heard the term “peer mentoring” thrown around by teachers and academics alike. But what does it mean exactly and is it effective?
Zone of proximal development of “ZPD” was a concept introduced, but not fully developed, by psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s. In short, it is the space in which a learner benefits from guidance.
Scaffolding and peer mentoring are extensions of Vygotsky’s notion of ZPD. They are the process “by which a teacher or more competent peer helps the student in their ZPD and then tapers off aid as it becomes unnecessary—much like workers will remove scaffolding from a building after they complete construction” (Balaban, 1995).
The Education Endowment Foundation has found peer tutoring succeeds as an enhancement to normal teaching rather than a replacement, and is therefore “most effectively used to consolidate learning, rather than to introduce new material.”
So there you have it! peer mentoring is, at its core, the personalised instruction or feedback by a person of similar status to supplement normal teaching—such as that found in a university lecture or tutorial.