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Issue Date: July 01, 2015
Published Online: February 09, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2020
Enhancing Leadership and Communication by Utilizing a Peer-Mentoring Program: Lessons From Three Years of Implementation
Author Affiliations
  • Saginaw Valley State University
  • Saginaw Valley State University
Article Information
Professional Issues / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
Enhancing Leadership and Communication by Utilizing a Peer-Mentoring Program: Lessons From Three Years of Implementation
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510134. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO4079
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510134. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO4079
Abstract

Date Presented 4/17/2015

The presented year-long, peer-mentoring program yielded measurable improvements in leadership, communication, and collegiality. Lessons learned from 3 yr of program implementation are shared to support others in instituting similar programs.

SIGNIFICANCE: Carefully designed and rigorous mentoring programs may provide Master in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) students with opportunities to develop stronger leadership and communication skills.
INNOVATION: We present an innovative and low-cost intervention to promote the realization of our Centennial Vision by enhancing leadership skills and by creating strong, inclusive communities.
APPROACH: Our hypothesis was that embedding peer-mentoring in professional preparation will enhance leadership and communication skills of student participants. Peer mentoring is documented as an effective means to promote leadership and communication skills in a variety of settings; however, practical models and evidence of such programs for occupational therapy students are sparse. Hence, the purpose of this presentation is to share one successful model of a peer-mentoring program for MSOT students and to discuss lessons learned from three cohorts of this year-long program. In this study, we measured the outcomes that were focused on transformational leadership, development of communication skills, and collegiality using qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate student participants’ perception and performance.
METHOD: A total of 221 students participated in this study, which included 102 2nd-yr graduate occupational therapy student volunteers randomly assigned to mentor 1st-yr occupational therapy student volunteers. The program took place at Saginaw Valley State University. Participation was voluntary with a 1-yr commitment. Contact between mentors and mentees was initiated by the mentor at least biweekly and was conducted via face-to-face meetings; meetings were supplemented by electronic media such as e-mail, Facebook, and telephoning.
The evidence-based program curriculum developed by the authors was based on the following: (1) theoretical foundations of leadership and cognitive coaching, (2) conclusions drawn from reported applications of peer mentoring in diverse settings, and (3) student–faculty collaboration. Training and then group meetings (held once per semester) facilitated by faculty provided guidance to mentors in their relationships with mentees. During the 1st (pilot) yr, changes and adaptations to the structure of the program were made on the basis of student feedback to better accommodate student needs.
Following institutional review board (IRB) approval, we assessed participant performance using a mixed-methods design. Measures included the following: (1) pre- and postscores on the Multifactorial Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ); (2) pre- and postscores on the Interpersonal Communication Scale (ICS); (3) monthly mentoring logs describing the duration of the meetings, communication media, and main topics discussed; (4) open-ended feedback surveys administered at midterm and at the end of the program; and (5) in-depth mentee interviews. We analyzed MLQ and ICS data using nonparametric Wilcoxon signed-rank t tests. Mentoring logs and feedback surveys were coded and ranked. Pearson r correlations were used to analyze relations within and between findings.
RESULTS: Significant improvements were found in the leadership questionnaire (p < .05), indicating growth in transformational leadership skills. Students demonstrated increased competence in their interpersonal communication in a variety of aspects assessed. Collegiality and networking were reported among the most important benefits. Different communication media had varying impacts. Overall, both mentors and mentees expressed high levels of satisfaction and perceived benefits.
CONCLUSION: Peer mentoring yielded significant benefits, particularly in leadership and skills development and academic satisfaction. We recommend continued implementation and evaluation of such programs for MSOT students.