How Does Peer Mentoring Positively Affect Student Success and Retention Rates?

Faculty member and fellowship recipient Dr. Kimberley Cox hopes to learn how peer mentorships positively impact student success and retention rates in an online learning environment.

March 2012Dr. Kimberley Cox, a faculty member in Walden University’s School of Psychology received Walden’s 2011 Research Fellowship in Distance Education, a $10,000 grant provided by the Presidential Fellowship Program, to pursue her study Effects of a Peer Mentor Program on Academic Performance, Retention, and Well-Being of Graduate Students in a Distance Education Psychology Program. Through this research, she hopes to learn whether peer mentoring effectively supports academic success for graduate students studying in an online learning environment.

While there is a substantial body of research on traditional mentorships, including faculty-to-student mentoring relationships, there is little research available on peer-to-peer mentoring, she says. Dr. Cox plans to pair graduate students who are members of Walden’s chapter of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, with new students to study the effects these peer relationships have on academic success, retention and well-being.

The Value of Peer Mentoring

“It is hypothesized that the unique camaraderie of these peer relationships will buffer against isolation and support academic success,” she explains. “When I first proposed the idea for peer mentoring to Walden’s Psi Chi members, I was encouraged by their enthusiasm.” Not only did these students hope that the program could start quickly, many offered to help new students settle into the program.

Peer mentors will serve as guides who provide encouragement, motivation and support to first-term psychology graduate students. Dr. Cox hopes this “personal touch” will inspire new students to continue their studies.

Dr. Cox will gather data on students’ course completion rates, academic success and perceptions of social support to measure the program’s successes. Ultimately, she hopes the study will contribute to the field of online education.

“If the results of this research point to the effectiveness of peer mentoring as an approach to increase student success, interaction and connectedness, then it may serve as a model for the implementation of peer mentoring programs in distance education,” Dr. Cox explains.

About the Fellowship

The Research Fellowship in Distance Education provides funding to support research endeavors that contribute both theoretical and applied knowledge to the growing field of distance education. This program is designed to encourage research conducted in the name of Walden and to continuously improve the distance-education programs at the university through research.

Read more about the Research Fellowship in Distance Education and past recipients.