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ERIC Number: EJ1055712
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 45
An Exploration of the "Lived Experience" of One Cohort of Academic Peer Mentors at a Small Australian University
Couchman, Judith A.
Australasian Journal of Peer Learning, v2 Article 5 p87-110 2009
Academic peer mentoring programs have gained a firm place in higher education student support over the last couple of decades. One such program, Supplemental Instruction (SI), has been extensively evaluated as particularly effective in the United States and has subsequently figured in recommendations for adoption by both Australian and New Zealand universities. While the benefits of SI for students have been well documented over the last 36 years, the benefits to Supplemental Instruction Leaders (SILs) have been less well documented. These benefits, while found throughout the SI literature in the form of claims, have received little exclusive attention. Instead, they typically occur as virtual footnotes in reports on the results of SI implementation. In these documents, evidence of leader benefits is gleaned from SILs themselves in end-of-training or end-of-semester surveys, and is most often expressed as generic "leadership skills", with "communication skills", "self-confidence", "organisational skills", "teamwork" and "group skills", providing some explanation of what might constitute such leadership skills. Such descriptions, while serving their purpose well in program evaluations, provide little insight into the full range and depth of what our leaders gain from their experience, for, not only are SILs required to exhibit leadership skills, but they are also expected to display facilitation and pedagogic skills as well. Indeed, few studies have viewed leadership as personal experience. Therefore, it is timely that the SILs' personal experiences as academic student leaders be more fully examined so that a more fine-grained and "insider" account can be developed. As SILs are engaged in a pedagogical process, it is their "lived experience and practical actions of everyday life" captured in text that provide especially pertinent and powerful data. This study aimed to collect such data from a particular university's current cohort of SILs, and analyse it so that current generic expressions of the SILs' experience might be expanded. A qualitative research paradigm was chosen as this was an exploration of the student leaders' lived experience. To capture a manageable part of this world, leaders were asked to submit a written narrative of a critical incident in one of their successful sessions. This snapshot of one session chosen by each of this group of Supplemental Instruction Leaders has revealed a complex experience. It was not a simple matter of implementing the activities planned for the session. Rather, it was a careful and considered construction of communities of practice for novice managers in accounting, law and statistics as well as beginning IT professionals. Moreover, it was a construction that underwent appropriate and timely modifications in the process as the leaders strived to facilitate student success, collaboration and inclusivity. The outcome was a raft of benefits to both leaders and their students.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Peer Teaching, Mentors, Qualitative Research, Student Experience, Personal Narratives, Critical Incidents Method, Learning Activities, Communities of Practice, Undergraduate Students, Student Leadership, Content Analysis, Coding, Reflective Teaching, Empathy, Cooperation, Inclusion, Self Esteem, Communication Skills, Friendship
University of Wollongong. Available from: Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources. Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Tel: +61-2-4221-3140; Fax: +61-2-4225-8312; e-mail: email@example.com; Web site: http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia