April 28, 2015
Science undergrads learn important skills as in-class peer mentors
At first glance, Kyla Flanagan’s winter 2015 quantitative biology course looks like many others offered by the Faculty of Science. But a keen observer would note one important difference: the presence of peer mentors working with students during active learning activities and small-group discussions.
These mentors were taking part in the university’s Curricular Peer Mentoring program, which provides undergraduates with the opportunity to learn important facilitation skills while getting hands-on practice in the classroom. Flanagan, an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is an advocate of the program and has welcomed peer mentors to her biology and ecology courses for three years.
“In this program, undergrads who have previously taken and excelled in a course are recruited by the instructor to become a peer mentor,” Flanagan explains. “Successful applicants then enroll in the credited course CMCL 507: Collaborative Learning and Peer Mentoring where they’re taught about the science of learning, how to facilitate small groups and active learning techniques.”
Peer mentors then apply the theory they learn in CMCL 507 through 40 hours of practicum work over the semester in the host course.
“The experience in the host classroom can run the gamut, from leading study groups to assisting the instructor with in-class learning activities or case studies. Essentially, peer mentors are there to increase and enhance student engagement, which we know leads to a better learning experience,” says Flanagan.
- Above: front row, from left: Kyla Flanagan, an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and peer mentors Megan Mah, Catharine Hillaby, Karen Shewchuk. Back row, from left, peer mentors Susan Anderson, Brittany Ahmad, Ben Webster, Getanshu Malik.