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Session 1: Introduction to Peer Mentorship

Lesson Overview

The first session of the MaGE (Megas and Gigas Educate) course introduces the course. This course trains students to become GEMs (Giga Education Mentor), who are responsible for peer mentorship of a group of students in introductory classes called PEBLs (Peer Education Based Learner).

Peer mentorship is different than professional mentorship, and thus requires specific peer mentorship training. Peers can struggle to establish authority, or they can be taken as having more authority than they actually have. Thus, clarifying their role and helping them to establish and then maintain boundaries is important (see Packard et al., 2014).

Overall Motivations and Objectives

This first session of the MaGE Training Course has two main aims:

  1. To provide the students with additional details on the purpose of the MaGE program, as well as the responsibilities and expectations of a GEM.
    Students must buy into the purpose of the course to get the most out of it.
  2. To facilitate team bonding amongst the students, and between the students and the instructors.
    As a discussion based course, MaGE requires students to actively participate and contribute. It is essential that students  begin to feel comfortable in the space, contributing to the group, and interacting with one another. 

Prerequisite Knowledge

To use this module, the following readings, activities, and reflections should be completed:


  • None

Preliminary Activities

  • None

Instructor Reflections

This course will introduce a number of discussion topics and research literature which you may not have previous experience with in a classroom setting. Often, lectures in scientific disciplines do not lend themselves well to discussing difficult topics such as diversity, inclusion, or methods of feedback. These reflection prompts are aimed at helping you, as an instructor, prepare for teaching this course.
  • What experiences have you had with peer mentors in the past (either as a mentor/mentee or as a supervisor of one of these relationships)?
  • How do those experiences shape what you hope to accomplish in teaching this course?

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Lesson Plan


  1. Introductions/Getting to Know You (20 min)
  2. Introduction to MaGE (5 - 10 min)
  3. Overview of GEM Responsibilities (5 - 10 min)
  4. DiscussionWhat does it mean to be a peer mentor? (30 - 40 min)
  5. Break (10 min)
  6. ActivityBonding/reflection (60 - 75 min)
  7. Review Assignments for Next Session (15 min)
  8. Exit Feedback

Introductions/Getting to Know You (20 min) 


Icebreaker to introduce the students to one another. Have each student give their name, class year, and answer a question of your choice. Example: “What's one thing nobody in the room knows about you?"




Learn names (both students and instructor) and begin class bonding.

Introduction to MaGE (5-10 min)


MaGE stands for Megas and Gigas Educate.



This peer academic mentoring program has the following objectives:
  • To grow enrollment 3X over 3 years in introductory CS courses
  • To increase CS enrollment and retention for women and other underrepresented groups
  • To train CS students to educate, mentor, and support others in inclusive ways

Overview of GEM Responsibilities (5-10 min)


The GEMs have a variety of responsibilities, including code review, 1-on-1 meetings
with PEBLs, and running Active Learning Modules.



Inform students of the expectations placed on GEMs

Discussion: What does it mean to be a peer mentor? (30-40 min)


As the first discussion topic of the course, this is an opportunity to get everyone participating. Students should be prompted to discuss their experiences with peer mentorship in the past, and what their expectations are for becoming a peer mentor. It may also be useful to highlight the major points from the homework reading.


Discussion prompts:
  • Have you had a peer mentor? What was positive or negative about that experience?
  • Have you ever been a peer mentor? What made you successful or unsuccessful?
  • What qualities should a peer mentor have?
  • What might make peer mentoring difficult? Does it depend on the mentor? The mentee? The environment?


  • Engagement in discussion from all students
  • Quality of peer mentorship

Activity: Bonding/reflection (60-75 min)


This time can be used for a variety of bonding and reflection activities. This could be composed of:
  • An activity that focuses on communication skills and allows the students to get to know one another. 
  • An activity that allows students to reflect on their goals and motivations for taking the training course.


Sample Activities:

Salt and Pepper (30 min) 
For: Communication Skills and Team Bonding
Materials Needed: Tape, a pen, a small piece of paper for each person, and a list of well-known pairs (think peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper).
Preparation: Write one half of each pair on the sheets of paper (Mario on one piece, Luigi on another, and so on). Tape one paper to each person's back, then have everyone mingle and try to figure out the word on their back.

Instructions: Students can only ask each other yes or no questions (think 20 questions). Once they figure out what their word is, they need to find the other half of their pair. When they find each other, have them sit down and find three things they have in common while the rest of the class continues questioning and searching. Finally, have each pair announce what three things they have in common to the class.

Confidence/Reservations Circle (30 min) 
For: Reflection and Team Bonding
Materials Needed: Pens, and 2 pieces of paper per person

Instructions: Each person writes one thing they are positive/excited for/confident about the course on one piece of paper, and one thing they are nervous/concerned about/reserved about the course on the other piece of paper. All the pieces of paper go into a hat. All students form a large circle, and take turns taking a slip of paper out of the hat and reading it aloud. If any student agrees with the statement, they take a step in.


  • Students become familiar with one another
  • Students feel comfortable talking to all members of the group
  • Students understand their own goals and motivations


Common Issues

Given the discussion based nature of the course, be sure to clearly outline the criteria on which the course will be graded in this first session.


For Students
  • Don't treat the Learning and Motivation Self-Inventory like an assignment. This is more of a skills building class so don’t worry about giving a “correct” answer.
  • Be honest and self-reflective in the Exit Feedback, don’t worry about giving the responses you think the instructors want to hear.
For Instructors
  • The way you present yourself in this first session sets the tone and has the potential to establish trust, worry more about how approachable you appear rather than how knowledgeable you seem
  • Make sure that all the information you convey about their future responsibilities is easily accessible on the course site. They will probably be overwhelmed and absorb very little of it during this first session.

Assessment, Debrief, and Looking Ahead


For each session, two types of feedback are collected. 
  1. Anonymous feedback collected immediately at the end of the session [allocate ~5 minutes]
    While this may be done in any form, we chose to use simple index cards passed out at the end of the class deposited anonymously at the classroom exit as the students left. The benefit of this form of feedback is its immediacy - thoughts and feelings relating to the session are fresh in the students' minds. Students were instructed to write anything they felt like - or nothing at all. 
  2. An Exit Feedback Google Form which the students were asked to complete before Midnight on the day of the session.  Sample Exit Feedback Form.


Drawing on the skills and discussion of this session, students should prepare for the next session with the following activities:

Looking Ahead

In preparation for the next session on Active Learning students should read:

Supplemental Readings

Documents the ways in which science peer facilitators at Northwestern University grew as a result of their participation, in three areas: cognitively, personally, and instrumentally.

Describes the process of selecting and training peer mentors into a range of courses, as well as the infrastructure needed to support the system.

Although this article focuses on the perceptions of graduate students, rather than undergraduates, the findings shed light on the importance of trust in mentoring. The results suggest that a mentor’s competency, predictability, fairness, and communication all contribute to their trustworthiness.

This article focuses on the positive benefits of peer mentoring, while recognizing that mentoring that is institutionalized and formalized also has power dynamics. In addition, students may want more from peer mentoring than the boundaries afford, and by recognizing peer mentors as “experts” can undermine trust and friendliness.

This chapter defines peer mentoring in university settings and then provides a wide array of example peer mentoring programs from an array of colleges and universities. This helps to situate one’s peer mentoring program within a larger landscape of peer mentoring, as they vary widely from college adjustment/transition programs to academic tutoring/instruction.