Choose the right people

This morning I was reflecting on the different recruitment decisions I have made over time. I recruit between 50-70 leaders, per year, and the database now shows that I’m up to 344 leaders. I get a lot of experience recruiting, learning when to trust my gut, and learning when not to.

When I talk to academics about improving their tutors’ teaching skills, recruitment is a vital part of the exercise. I know it’s not possible always to recruit the right people if you’re recruiting from a fixed bunch of people, such as Honours and PhD students, but where possible I would encourage you to think about it and what you want. What you’re looking for in peer learning in my opinion is this:

1. An understanding of how people learn: I think you can teach this to a certain extent, but what you’re looking for, particularly in peer learning (where they get 2 days training) is a “native” understanding – is it too strong to say that some people are born facilitators, and some people are born “tellers”? I don’t think so.

2. Someone who can actively think about not what teaching is, but what LEARNING is. As I often recruit 2nd years, sometimes only 18 or 19 years old, I really rely on people that can identify what helped them to succeed in first year, and how they LEARNT. If they are to be authentic peer leaders, they need to be “sellers” of how to learn. They have some of this authentic-ness (is that a word?) just by being a high achieving student, but they also need to be able to articulate it. It’s an important part of the mentoring. And as I’ve said before, it’s the peer to peer thing that is critical. It’s not someone like me (or possibly you) – it’s a student to student thing.

This is another comment from a student attending U:PASS this semester:

Q: Based on the sessions which I attended, what I found MOST USEFUL about the U:PASS program is:
A: another student who can easily identify with us regarding the subject and give us advice/tips

3. Someone who knows how to shut up: Sometimes when I watch peer learning sessions I see a lot of talking from the leader. It’s (what I call – Miranda reference!) leader-directed. A really good peer learning environment is one where the students are talking and chatting, and the leader is wandering around, maybe not saying much at all, just asking a question here or there, or directing to a particular lecture slide or textbook reference. Follower-directed! Check out this maths leader’s comment from last year:

Questions/(topics) were a bit easier than the last couple of weeks, so people were a lot more engaged, talkative and helping one another out. I was a little sad, because there were (short) moments were I had absolutely nothing to do 😦

Of course, having nothing to do means the students are actively engaging and learning from each other. That’s a huge win! And that’s what I told the leader.

Of course there are other things that you should be looking for. I might speak about these in another post. 🙂


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About Georgina Barratt-See

Georgina manages the UTS U:PASS (UTS Peer Assisted Study Success) program, which assists students in 50 first and second year subjects with study sessions run by trained student facilitators. Georgina has 14 years experience in the Higher Education sector with interests in student leadership, mentoring, first year experience, teaching and learning.

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  1. Choose the right people, Part 2 | Peering into Learning - June 18, 2013

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