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With the high cost of education, it’s no surprise that the rate of students dropping out of STEM courses is high. While this problem has been an issue in K-12 classes, it only increases as students reach college, with dropout rates advancing 30% before many students even reach sophomore year.

STEM educators are working hard to create more engaging coursework and programs that help prevent these dropouts, but there has been limited success. However, one innovative solution shows promise in helping keep STEM students engaged and on track to graduate with a degree in their chosen field: mentoring programs.

How Near-Peer Mentoring Can Help Students?

If a student struggles to learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills, it can be hard to find guidance from those who have already graduated. One way to bridge that gap is through a program called near-peer mentoring. This system helps connect students with people who have expertise in a particular subject area or field. It gives them someone who has already gone through their education journey and can help guide them as they continue along their path toward success.

It can be helpful to have a mentor when you’re trying to develop unfamiliar or complex skills. Having someone there who you can turn to for advice and support when you need it most is invaluable.

What Is Near-Peer Mentoring?

Students who excel in one area often want to help out peers struggling with a subject or don’t have access to a teacher they feel they can go to if they need help. Sometimes, students learn more from students than their professors do, and that is why some programs exist where students tutor and mentor each other. Given the success rates of such programs, Edtech conferences, such as the Education 2.0 Conference, continue to explore how student mentors and teachers have become valuable resources and the ways and means through which peers can encourage each other’s learning and deepen connections within their classes.

Benefits Of Mentorship

Peer mentorships have been shown to enhance school climate, improve student engagement and academic achievement, and increase retention of minority students in STEM. Near-peer mentors also report benefits such as an increased sense of belonging and science identity, as well as improved self-efficacy. These factors are critical for increasing students' persistence in STEM. Another persistence factor is the ability to “give back” as it holds great promise for increasing underrepresented students' participation in science by positively affecting both mentees and mentors and serving as a vehicle for giving back.

Getting Started With Near-Peer Mentoring

In a typical institution that embraces near-peer mentoring, undergraduate students get to mentor graduate students from other departments and learn more about each other and their programs. There are a variety of mentorship programs that pair researchers based on their career stage (junior vs. senior) rather than on their academic field.

As you can see, near-peer mentoring brings with it a wide range of advantages and plays a vital role in enhancing student outcomes. By attending education events in Dubai where such topics are discussed at great length, stakeholders in the education sector can learn more about the different benefits of mentorship programs and their role in helping students and teachers achieve their short- and long-term goals.

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