Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Nowicki, Elizabeth A.


While most research focuses on the outcomes of peer mentoring for younger mentees, this program of research, consisting of three integrated studies, investigated former youth mentors’ experiences mentoring their younger peers, as well as school staff interpretation of youth data. Mentors’ relationships and connections made with others through program participation was investigated using an attachment theory lens; mentors' lessons learned and skill-development in the program was viewed through a positive psychology framework. As part of group concept mapping methodology, multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis revealed key concepts. Results inform program delivery and identify practice implications associated with how both youth and educators interpret the youth mentoring experience.

Summary for Lay Audience

This research investigated the relationships and skills learned by former elementary school-aged youth mentors, two to four years after participation, in the Wiz Kidz in-school elementary peer mentoring program. The Wiz Kidz program meets weekly under the supervision of an educator to provide structured and supportive leadership experiences for youth mentors, and companionship and social support for younger mentees. Data collection and analysis utilized group concept mapping to address the research questions. Former youth mentors responded to two open-ended focus questions stemming from attachment and positive psychology theoretical lens and asked about relationships made through the program and how the mentoring experience contributed to their lives. Each unique statement was extracted from the interviews and returned to the participants to be independently sorted and rated by their perceived importance. Elementary school educators sorted and rated the youth data set pertaining to the relational outcomes of program participation. The youth- and educator-sorted and rated statements were processed using a tool for concept mapping analysis that was used to locate each statement on a separate point on a map and group the statements on the map into conceptual clusters. Average importance ratings were calculated for each statement and cluster. Results from the study of former youth mentors’ reflections on the connections and relationships made through mentoring their younger peers produced a three-cluster concept model that discussed mentors’ perceived improvements in communicating with younger students and awareness of their influential role model statuses. The results of the educator study revealed considerable conceptual overlap with the youth study and produced four key concepts. Educators assigned higher importance ratings of the youth-provided statements than the youth study. Results from the youth study investigating the skills and lessons learned from mentoring their younger peers revealed four key concepts including mentors’ improved communication and interpersonal skill development. This study emphasized mentors’ perceptions of their self-reliance and responsibilities in their leadership roles. This study provided insights into the similarities and differences in how educators and former youth mentors interpreted the mentoring experience.