So, what is AIME doing that is working so well in terms of inspiring and motivating students to continue to engage with education? To respond to this question we can report that the AIME Research Partnership has found that:
- The AIME program works because it is created and led by Indigenous people.
- The AIME program creates a unique and culturally safe learning context that facilitates successful mentoring activities.*
- The positive and respectful relationships cultivated between AIME staff, mentors and mentees are key to the educational success of the program.
- AIME uses a strengths-based approach to recognize, understand and develop mentees’ educational ‘aspirations’.
- AIME addresses students experiences of ‘Shame’ in educational contexts and this helps the young people who go to AIME to engage with education in positive ways.*
- It is plausible to extend the reach of the AIME program beyond university campuses, to include young people from regional and remote areas. This could be achieved using virtual collaboration software.
*Starred items relate to articles currently in progress or under review. We will announce publications on this website.
AIME and its mentees
The results of the evaluation commenced in 2012 indicated that the AIME Outreach Program was achieving positive results for participants (mentees) that were comparable with the Core Program. The evaluation also found that AIME positively impacted:
- The strength and resilience of mentees;
- Mentee pride in being Indigenous;
- Mentees making strong connections with Indigenous peers, role models and culture;
- Aspirations and engagement for finishing school; and
- Aspirations for continuing to further study.
A 3-year project called the Partnership Project was finalised in 2016 and the results showed that AIME can produce good and relevant numbers that can assist policy and practice to drive towards better, brighter, and the right futures for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. We found that AIME positively impacts mentees:
- The AIME program creates relationships and a culturally safe space that support mentees’ engagement in the program;
- AIME is effective in increasing mentees’ academic self-perceptions and motivation;
- An increased amount of time spent within the AIME program significantly increased the mentees’ sense of self-esteem, school confidence and cultural confidence at school; and
- Mentees value not only how AIME promotes stronger study habits and aspirations, but also helps students value themselves and their culture within the learning environment
AIME and its mentors
We can also report benefits to university students who volunteer as AIME mentors in terms of improved cultural understanding and responsiveness to issues of inequity in their community and careers, and an improved university experience. From extensive interviews, observations and surveys we found that:
- Mentors are reporting significant learning experiences derived from participation in AIME;
- Many mentors told us they feel like they are learning as much or more than the mentees;
- Mentors are developing knowledge and appreciation of Indigenous culture as well as growing awareness of social injustices experienced by Indigenous Australians;
- Mentors are describing an increased capacity and motivation for volunteering;
- Mentors have described that they are focussing their volunteering efforts to specifically benefit Indigenous young people;
- 90% of mentor survey respondents reported that participation in AIME has enhanced their university experience;
- 84% of mentor respondents reported that AIME has enhanced the way they connect and serve the wider community;
- On average, mentor survey respondents reported growth in the following graduate qualities:
- Their knowledge of Indigenous Australian cultures
- Their connection to Indigenous Australia
- Their cultural and social awareness
- Their leadership skills
- Their communication skills
- Their teamwork skills
- Their creativity
The Australian Research Council has contributed to this research through funding for the Discovery Project: Mentoring and Indigenous Higher Education: Understanding how university students mentor Indigenous school students (DP140103690).