Peer mentors to give first-year students leg up

A new program is helping Brock’s first-year students adjust to the academic requirements of post-secondary studies.

A-Z Learning Services is set to offer the Course Pack program this semester in several large first-year courses. More faculty members are needed to expand the program through additional course partnerships.

Faculty-recommended peer mentors are hired to communicate directly with course instructors to determine important fields of development for new students. Several mini-workshops are crafted by a learning skills specialist in consultation with the mentors, who present the workshops to students at important times throughout the year.

Mentors also provide dedicated drop-in services around key assignments and exams.

Allyson Miller, Brock’s Manager of Learning Services, emphasized the importance of having a mentor enter a classroom to teach skills that are specifically related to each student’s area of study.

“What’s unique about this program is the leadership role of the dedicated peer mentors,” Miller said.  “These successful upper-year students bridge the space between new students and the faculty and TAs who assess them by sharing their own positive experiences and learning journeys. They also highlight strategies and approaches that may be unique to the discipline.”

To prove the concept could benefit students and faculty, Course Pack was run as a trial during the 2016-17 academic year in a history course jointly taught by professors Andrew McDonald and Jessica Clark.

“One of the goals of our new first-year maritime history course (HIST 1F92) has been to work with students right from the outset of their university experience to equip them with skills necessary for success,” said McDonald. “The Course Pack program has been extremely successful in enhancing student experience.”

The in-class workshops in HIST 1F92 touched on topics such as note-taking, active listening and preparing for exams. These workshops, combined with drop-in consultation sessions, have helped the students to succeed in developing their academic and time management skills.

Miller believes the success of the pilot program can be repeated across the University to help improve results for students in numerous large first-year courses.

“Bringing together tailored support to develop foundational skills in larger classes is an effective way of improving student performance, and helping to ensure our first-year students have the tools necessary to succeed, ” she said.

“Right now, we are looking for faculty who are willing to offer this service to their students,” she said. “Implementation is adaptable and can be tailored to fit any class.”

To learn more about the Course Pack program, interested course instructors can contact Miller at

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