The Peer Mentor Program (PMP) is a pilot program to trial and adapt the evidence-informed (research-based) highly successful Canadian Peer Support Program for educators. The program was co-designed and co-created with educators and researchers in the field.
Our Australian trials will be initially conducted in five areas. The program is a unique collaboration between four key organisations:
1. Australian Childcare Alliance (Queensland Branch)
2. Southern Cross University (lead)(a provider of initial early childhood teacher education)
3. University of New England (a provider of initial early childhood teacher education)
4. Manna Institute (which aims to provide mental health and wellbeing research and support to regional, rural and remote Australia). This virtual research training institute operates in the Regional University Network, including Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmanian universities. The institute gives us access to many wellbeing experts. It is a Commonwealth-funded, UNE-led initiative incorporating Southern Cross University researchers.
What are the aims of the program?
The program recognises that while working as an educator is very rewarding, it can also be challenging.
The aims of the program are to improve:
- educator wellbeing
- educator peer support within their community
- the retention of educators in ‘Childcare Desert’ areas
- the skills of educators to mentor other educators
- educators’ energy, enthusiasm and passion for their essential role
- the professional development of educators
- the attraction of educators into the field when they can see they will be supported
Participants can share their learning with other educators in their services.
Why is the program free?
The program is free due to generous cash funding from the Australian Childcare Alliance (QLD Branch) and significant in-kind funding from Southern Cross University (SCU), the University of New England (UNE) and the Manna Institute (part of the Regional University Network, including SCU and UNE)
When does it start?
We will be starting the PSP in Spring 2023.
How long does it last?
The initial pilot lasts for 12 months, however, we will be exploring ways to make the program sustainable. We will also be applying for further funding.
Who can participate?
We want a range of educators to participate. We are looking for diversity in:
- experience (new to highly experienced)
- types of services
Educators must have permission to participate from their supervisor.
How does the program work?
The PSP creates and nurtures a supportive community of educators who can help each other and learn from each other. The group will be from the same geographical area and meet face-to-face and online. This group is called the Community of Practicing Educators (CoPe). This diagram shows how it works.
In each CoPe there are:
- 6 less experienced educators (mentees)
- 6 more experienced educators (mentors)
- 1 facilitator (highly experienced educator).
The CoPe meet face-to-face once a month to share a meal (free) and discuss whatever they wish. This could be about wellbeing, personal issues and/or practice.
Each CoPe are given an allowance to spend on the professional development of their choice. They can use the money for their group, or combine with another group to increase their funds.
On the other weeks of the month, each pair (a mentor and mentee) get together (phone, online or face-to-face) to chat and support each other.
Training and support for mentors and mentees will be provided. The facilitator also gets together with the organisers and each other online each month.
Canadian educators tell us that it has rejuvenated their energy and passion for the sector. Those who were thinking of leaving have stayed on to support less experienced educators. Many early career educators have stayed because they feel nurtured as shown in this diagram.
Why is it part of a research project?
We will be evaluating the effectiveness of the programs for Australian educators. We will also gather ideas on improving the program and making it sustainable for future participants.
The data will support our organisations to apply for further funding for ongoing programs and for other educators to be involved.
What am I expected to do if I participate?
Educators will be expected to:
- fill out some de-identified surveys at various times (a total of 1-2 hours during 12 months)
- attend the monthly face-to-face gathering. This usually takes 2-3 hours x 12 months
- participate in the three 1-hour catch-ups each month with their mentor/mentee via phone or video call x 12 months
- after each session, educators are asked to answer a couple of reflective questions online in their own time (5-15 minutes)
- participate in focus group online interviews (a total of 2 hours during the 12 months)
- participate in online forums occasionally
Do I get paid to participate?
Facilitators will be paid $5000 during the pilot for their work organising the group over the 12-month period. Similarly, participating educators will be given an honorarium of $275 to show appreciation for their time in providing feedback.
Here’s what the Canadian educators said
In this video, the leader of the Canadian program talks about the program, then participating Canadian educators discuss their experiences in the program.
When do we register our interest?
We would appreciate your expression of interest in the PMP by registering below by Friday 15th September, 2023.