Academic Peer Mentoring in PETE: A Win-Win

Publication Date


Document Type



Background/Purpose: Physical education mentoring literature has focused primarily on 3 distinct areas: beginning teachers, higher education faculty (Griffin & Ayers, 2005), and K-12/ university partnerships (e.g., Parker, Patton, & Tannehill, 2012). Mentoring also plays a substantial role on university campuses with the current focus on promoting student success and increasing graduation rates; however, academic peer mentoring within the university classroom remains largely unexamined (Colvin & Ashman, 2010). The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences of physical education teacher education (PETE) academic peer mentors and to examine how they enhanced their understanding of constructivist teaching, developed leadership skills, and supported learning for peers.

Method: Participants included 7 academic peer mentors, serving in disciplinary, activity, or pedagogy course, and 3 PETE faculty at a midsized liberal arts university. Data collection included a 60- min to 90-min focus-group interview with peer mentors and faculty, audio recordings of classroom interactions, student open response questions, informal interviews, and written artifacts.

Analysis/Results: Data were analyzed qualitatively and were collected during 1 semester for each peer mentor (Corbin & Strauss, 1998). First, peer mentors deepened their understanding of constructivist teaching as they used a range of approaches to support learning of difficult concepts for their peers. Second, increased social capital was afforded to the mentors through the enhanced social connections that developed. Third, the collaborative mentor-faculty relationship further enhanced the mentors’ social capital and overall academic experience. Fourth, development of leadership skills for peer mentors varied based on the personal characteristics and position in the PETE program.

Conclusions: Researchers found mentors gained social capital in the form of perceived support from other students and from their relationship with professors. In addition, peer mentors experienced connectedness to other students and faculty as they were a resource to students both in and outside of class. The importance of social connections to academic success has been well documented and is an important outcome for the peer mentors in this study. The academic peer mentors served to both uncover and help mitigate the hierarchical relationship that existed between professors and students, which is essential to a positive educational experience. Access to academic peer mentors was salient given the student population at the study site, as students reported that they are average or below-average in intellectual self-confidence as compared with their U.S. peers.

Original Citation

Sheehy, D., Richardson, K., Neutzling, & Rosenthal, M. (2015). Academic Peer Mentoring in PETE: A Win-Win. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 86(S2), A144.