Guiding Principles and Best Practices

The following guiding principles represent the values and beliefs of the programs and centers that participate in the Peer Leader Action Group. These guiding principles also inform our best practices for peer leader programs or centers, our practices as individual programs and centers, and our work together as a group. Both are based on research related to peer-to-peer tutoring and mentoring as well as theories of learning and development.


Guiding Principles for Peer Leader Programs or Centers

Peers can play an important and complementary role in supporting student learning and development. 

Peer leaders do not replace faculty or staff relationships, interactions, and expertise. Instead, they provide a different kind of learning environment grounded in communication, reciprocity, and trust.  

Peer collaboration is an effective and active mode of learning that combines academic, emotional, and social support. 

Peer-to-peer interactions support active learning and student engagement. Peer leaders also accept and encourage the students they serve. Both participants benefit from these interactions.  

Peer leaders primarily act as facilitators and guides rather than supervisors or evaluators. 

Peer leaders are experienced students who provide advice and guidance to their peers through active listening, open-ended questioning, and additional resource referrals. Peer-to-peer trust is built on creating an inclusive and friendly yet structured environment where everyone can make mistakes without being evaluated or judged. 

Peer leaders need initial and ongoing training, professional development, and supervision provided by a program, center, faculty, or staff. 

Peer leaders need support to fulfill their role and meet their responsibilities. Educational trainings and professional development should be interactive and reflective to foster “learning by doing” and self-awareness. 


Best Practices for Peer Leader Programs or Centers

Identify a point person or administrator of the program or center. 

Peer leaders and stakeholders need a clearly identified and accessible person to whom they can direct inquiries and questions. A point person or administrator also ensures that the program’s or center’s work aligns with its mission and all components of the program or center operate effectively and efficiently.   

Develop clear mission and vision statements. 

Mission statements clearly state the purpose, primary functions, and stakeholders of the program or center. Vision statements outline what the program or center would like to achieve or accomplish in the future. Consider: What is the purpose of the program or center? What population(s) does the the program or center serve? How does the program or center fit into your institution’s goals? What is the program’s or center’s cycle? 

Establish clear expectations, responsibilities, and boundaries for peer leaders. 

Peer leader expectations and responsibilities should align with the program’s or center’s mission. They should clearly detail what actions peer leaders are expected to perform as daily or routine tasks and what behaviors they should exhibit in their communications and interactions. Tasks or actions that fall outside the scope of a peer leader’s responsibilities also should be identified, and other resources to which peer leaders can refer students for those needs should be provided.  

Provide initial and ongoing supervision, training, and professional development for peer leaders. 

Training and professional development activities should have clear standards or goals, outcomes or actionable steps, and assessments. Additionally, they should model the skills the peer leaders will be using in their roles (e.g. learner centered, active engagement, explicit instruction, etc.). An initial training should occur before peer leaders start working directly with students with continuous supervision and professional development activities provided thereafter.

Develop a handbook or resource guide for peer leaders. 

Expectations, responsibilities, boundaries, training materials, etc. should be clearly outlined in resource materials provided to the peer leaders. These materials should be detailed and accessible. 

Maintain regular contact between peer leader and those with whom they work. 

Peer leader programs or centers should find ways to encourage ongoing and regular contact between peer leaders and their target student population. 

Assess the program or center with a 360° approach. 

Programs or centers should ensure effectiveness of training and delivery methods in achieving program or center goals holistically. A 360° approach is a multi-source feedback approach that is anonymous and involves all parties collaborating in the program or center (supervisors, faculty, peer leaders, students). 

Compensate peer leaders for their labor. 

Peer leaders provide an important service to the University and should be paid, receive course-credit, or be compensated in some other way for their work. 


References 

Agee, K., & Hodges, R. (Eds.). (2012)  Handbook for training peer tutors and mentors. Mason, OH: College Reading and Learning Association.

Smith, T. S. (Ed.). (2012). Undergraduate curricular peer mentoring programs: Perspectives on innovation by faculty, staff, and students. Plymouth, United Kingdom: Lexington Books. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com