A fair amount of research has found that helping others can benefit the “helper” and not just the “helpee” (see The Best Resources On The Value & Practice Of Having Older Students Mentoring Younger Ones and The Best Resources For Teaching & Learning About The “Helper’s High”).
We’ve certainly seen that in having peer mentors at our school.
A new study has come out finding that this kind of advice-giving from older high school students to younger ones resulted in the advisers increasing their grades (compared to a control group of students who were not mentors).
I’ve got to say that the research seems a little weird to me – they didn’t actually have the advisers talk to a “mentee” – only spend a few minutes answering some questions about what advice they would give to someone if they had an opportunity, and then writing a letter to an imaginary student who was facing challenges in school. But I guess that’s a lot easier for researchers to handle logistically than actually having students do the work of being mentors.
But it’s got to make you think: If mentors can get that kind of benefit from one eight minute intervention, I wonder how well they would do if, as they do at our school, spend fifteen minutes a week with their mentees. Not to mention the impact on the mentees themselves!
In fact, I’m going to talk to teachers at our school to see how difficult it would be for us to do our own analysis of how students who were mentors during the last school year to see how they did (we’ve already done one analyzing the mentees who were Long Term English Language Learners – look for my piece about it in an upcoming issue of ASCD Educational Leadership).