What and How University Student Leaders Learned in One Peer Education Program
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The purpose of my study was to explore what and how university students learned from their experiences working as peer educators. In my study, I was only interested in investigating peer educators working in formal peer education programs within the post-secondary setting. I defined learning as “a comprehensive, holistic, transformative activity that integrates academic learning and student development” (italics in original, ACPA & NASPA, 2004, p. 2). I used a modified version of the CAS 2009 learning outcomes framework to understand what peer educators learned. Those six CAS learning outcomes are: knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application; cognitive complexity; intrapersonal development; interpersonal competence; humanitarianism and civic engagement; and practical competence. I adopted a qualitative, descriptive, exploratory approach to the study of the content and context of peer educators’ learning. I selected participants for my study from a pool of peer educators of a student affairs’ learning assistance peer education program at a mid-sized Ontario university. I conducted face-to-face, in-depth interviews with seven peer educators. My research revealed what peer educators in a single peer education program learned; it also provided insight into their experience of learning within the peer education program, i.e., how they learned. This study offers some insight into the potential for learning, as well as potential facilitators of learning, in the university peer educator role. The findings of my research indicate that the peer educators whom I studied learned in each of the six CAS learning outcomes. The facilitators of learning that these peer educators described in their interviews include learning from experience, interactions with others, reflection, and training. The findings of my study suggest that further research could be conducted, at various institutions as well as within and across peer education programs.