inherent value of the Penn mentoring Program (PMP) is that it
encourages students to use one another as resources for learning.
Students who have excelled in a discipline are chosen by
faculty to mentor students taking introductory courses in those
disciplines. These mentors are responsible for groups of
5-8 students and coordinate weekly meetings in the college house
setting. During these meetings, the mentors
ask key questions and moderate discussion, rather
than re-teach the material
provide opportunities for students to use the language
of the discipline and gain confidence discussing
demonstrate how to work effectively in a group,
how to pace assignments, and how to study for exams
provide practice opportunities that contribute
to the students' understanding of the material
"Mentoring Madness" - extra review sessions before
exams with 2 or 3 mentors collaborating on
the session but essentially maintaining the same aim of maximizing
active learning on the part
of the mentees
"Field Trips" - group participation in a discipline
related activity (e.g. lecture), with a social component
(e.g. a meal)
is well documented in the research literature and often observed
on the Penn campus that collaborative learning positively affects
academic achievement, self-esteem, and attitudes toward learning.
Collaborative learning is consistent with the trend
toward the formation of learning communities, define by Patricia
Cross  as "groups of
people engaged in intellectual interaction for the purpose of
learning." As groups of students study together, the emphasis
becomes cooperation rather than competition. Learning is
active, rather than passive. Students are located together
in study lounges, rather than isolated in their residence halls
rooms. As they explain the material aloud, jointly solve
difficult problems or construct practice exam questions, they
are reinforcing and extending their learning.
communities invites an array of pedagogies, including
field trip experiences
problem centered learning
ongoing reflection, metacognitive activities, and
Mentoring is designed to extend learning beyond the course hours,
not replace class or recitation attendance. In fact, mentees
must agree to attend all course lectures and keep up with course
assignments in order to participate in this program.
strength of the Penn Mentoring Program is the cohort of upperclass
mentors whose energy, dedication, and creativity have molded the
program from its inception. However, administrative and
intellectual support are provided from three groups of people,
also working collaboratively.
and their departments are an essential component of the Penn Mentoring
Program. Faculty identify the mentors and the coordinator
based on criteria most appropriate to the course. Criteria
may include course grade, GPA, communication style, and/or
demonstrated commitment to the discipline. Faculty work
closely with the coordinator to support the mentors in their developing
expertise with the course content and methods of instruction that
are discipline specific. Most important, the instructors
communicate the benefits of the program to their students and
Houses and Academic Services (CHAS)
of the mentoring sessions take place in the college houses to
encourage spontaneous group formation and discussion in similar
circumstances. Students have the opportunity to meet classmates,
who live nearby, and who become potential study partners for other
classes. Meetings make use of residential resources such
as computer labs and study rooms. CHAS provides website
support which is essential for group enrollment, communication,
mentor accountability, and program evaluation. CHAS also
provides payroll support for some of the disciplines. As
part of the WHEEL, PMP is visible as an academic support program.
Office of Learning Resources
the inception of the Penn Mentoring Program, the Office of Learning
Resources has provided support in numerous ways. The LRC
has developed the orientation and training sessions to support
the mentors in their role as novice instructors. Training
in identifying and incorporating the learning strategies that
are key to the success in specific disciplines has encouraged
mentoring that goes beyond a traditional tutoring model.
Mentors are able to incorporate study strategy and time management
components into their weekly mentoring sessions. Learning
instructors also serve as consultants on issues of assessment
of student concerns and provide a link to University support resources
through consultation, training, and printed materials.
In addition, the LRC has been responsible for the development
of program materials such as the Mentor Handbook.
Cross, P. (1998). Why learning communities?
Why now? About Campus. P. 4.