Using Core Values in Peer Education to Collaborate, Innovate, and Educate

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

How do you innovate a 25 year old program? Go back to the roots and start with core values and collaboration.


Julie Larsen is a higher education professional working in First Year Programs at the University of Washington. With over 10 years of experience in student training and development, she believes that training is most effective when we take less time to focus on the 'how' and take more time to focus on the 'why'. Julie’s recent work has centered around peer education, leadership development, and curriculum design. She is currently a facilitator for the LeaderShape Institute and Pi Beta Phi’s Critical Conversations program. She has previously facilitated with the Student Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI), and attended the professional SJTI in 2007. She has a BA in Psychology from Knox College and a MA in Education from Seattle University.

Extended Abstract

Peer educators play an integral role in the facilitation of learning communities. While strategies and models vary from institution to institution, the recruitment, training, and retention of peer educators make up a large part of the success of learning community programs. First Year Programs at the University of Washington consistently recruits, trains, and retains over 150 student volunteers who serve as First-year Interest Group (FIG) Leaders. For over 25 years the FIG program has provided peer to peer education as a way to support student transition to the university setting. Each FIG leader serves as a peer instructor for The University Community course (GEN ST 199).

FIG Leaders play an integral role in the facilitation of the FIG program. FIG Leaders create lesson plans, teach course content, facilitate discussions, serve as transitional resources to students, and implement various programmatic and University initiatives. Students are not compensated for their involvement, so the recruitment of highly motivated students with a strong sense of efficacy is paramount. Once selected, FIG Leaders must be provided with the information, strategies, and resources in order to be successful in the classroom. These components are introduced to FIG Leaders in a training course (GEN ST 470) taught in the spring quarter before teaching begins. Additional class meetings occur throughout the autumn quarter while FIG Leaders facilitate classes to provide opportunities for support and idea sharing among leaders. Transferable skills, professional development, and personal opportunities for growth are highlighted throughout the FIG Leader experience. As a result, 25% of FIG Leaders choose to return each year.

The FIG program is assessed annually through a survey administered to FIG Leaders and FIG students measuring the learning outcomes for each group. Focus groups provide qualitative data about FIG leader’s attitudes throughout their recruitment and training experience and uncover the variety of reasons FIG Leaders choose to return to the role for multiple years. Additionally, the University of Washington’s Office of Educational Assessment conducted a five-year study that assessed the impact the FIG program has on students’ transition to the University of Washington community.

This data has informed an update of practice over the past three years which has included integration of a “flipped” classroom experience for our peer educator training, a new collaboration with libraries creating online modules introduction library resources and how to conduct academic research, each peer educator having their own Canvas course to interact with students, and a rededication to values and mission based teaching.

Learning Objectives will include:

  • Sharing of successful recruitment and hiring strategies for large scale peer mentoring/educator programs
  • Learning effective methods for values and mission based training with students
  • Awareness of how to use liberating structures when designing curriculum for student training and development
  • Identifying specific unit/department mission and values to inform training programs
  • How to integrate a values based training program into an existing policy focused training