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An innovative framework for evaluating peer learning and leadership


Skalicky, J and van der Meer, J, An innovative framework for evaluating peer learning and leadership, European First Year Experience Conference, 28-30 June 2017, Birmingham, UK (2017) [Conference Extract]

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Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) are a vital form of academic student learning support provided by universities. PASS is a non-remedial, student-led and student-focused approach to learning support that targets traditionally difficult units, particularly those at a first year level, and offers students regular and informal study sessions which focus on integrating course material. Sessions are facilitated by PASS Leaders and provide students with opportunities to review unit notes, discuss readings, practice problem solving and develop study tools appropriate to their disciplines.

A key aspect of the PASS program is that students’ construction of knowledge and their learning is mediated by interactions with more competent peers who are at a level of understanding just past that of the students themselves. In keeping with the objective to develop independent and deep learnings, PASS leaders are trained to give ownership of the learning process to the students in their sessions, supporting them to develop the skills and confidence to learn and study effectively, both with their peers and also on their own.

Engagement with peers has been recognised by researchers and educators as a valuable support mechanism for learning and a critical factor in successful transition and first year student experience. To be effective, however, PASS student engagement with peers needs to be of quality and be well-conceived and supported. Since its inception in 2007, the quality and effectiveness of the PASS program at the University of Tasmania has been measured by detailed evaluations of its impact on student learning and engagement and academic outcomes. Student participation in the program has been shown to aid in knowledge retention, develop student academic skills and assist students in building social networks. Students who attend PASS also produce consistently higher results that those who do not attend. In addition, the PASS program has been evaluated in terms of the leadership pathway and development opportunities that it provides for PASS Leaders and Mentors and also in terms of institutional factors such as sustainability, quality assurance and value for money.

The focus of this presentation is on the processes used to evaluate the PASS program at the University of Tasmania, which take account of the varying perspectives of all stakeholders of the program. The evaluation is housed within the Developing and Supporting Student Leadership (DaSSL) framework (Skalicky et al., 2015 a,b) which was developed to enable informed strategic decision making and reflection on student and peer-led programs. The Framework is stabilised by the ‘5Ps’ which have been derived from international literature and represent the key domains of sound program design: Purpose, People, Positioning, Practice and Progress. This presentation offers a summary of the DaSSL Framework, outlining its core components (reflection tool, action plan, good practice guidelines, case studies, supporting resources) and highlights its use in evaluating the PASS program. As an innovative quality improvement tool, the Framework may be used to support leadership development in student peers and, in this way, it contributes to ensuring the excellence of peer learning programs such as PASS.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Keywords:DaSSL framework, peer leadership programs, evaluation
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Education systems
Research Field:Higher education
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Schools and learning environments
Objective Field:Policies and development
UTAS Author:Skalicky, J (Dr Jane Skalicky)
ID Code:129224
Year Published:2017
Deposited By:ED Student Life and Enrichment
Deposited On:2018-11-16
Last Modified:2018-11-23

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