An exploration of processes and methods to design and assess learning outcomes for peer educators
Harmon, Brad Vann
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The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to understand the specific process through which peer education program coordinators develop and measure learning outcomes for peer educators and to discover how the information gathered through this process is used to evaluate peer educator performance, determine whether or not the designated learning outcomes have been achieved, and improve the peer education experience for the peer educators. Research questions were constructed to gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives of program coordinators and to examine the intentionality behind the development and assessment of learning outcomes as well as how the information gained from this process was used to improve the experience for peer educators. Of specific concern were the types of learning outcomes developed for peer educators and how these outcomes were used to gauge the overall performance of the peer educators. Special attention also was given to the types of learning outcomes tied to peer educator training and how the information gained from their assessment was used. Interviews with 11 program coordinators who direct peer education programs for first-year college students at colleges and universities in the United States reveal that the development and assessment of learning outcomes for peer educators is not an intentional process. Program coordinators can easily articulate their expectations for peer educator learning and development and have expectations that peer educators will achieve increased competency in professional skill areas, particularly in areas of interpersonal communication and leadership. However, program coordinators have not intentionally developed learning outcomes with consideration as to how to measure their achievement. Program coordinators rely heavily on anecdotal evidence and self-reflective assessment tools and have not considered how to formally measure outcomes in a manner which would provide substantive evidence that learning and development has occurred. They provide little evidence of learning outcomes tied to peer educator training and have not considered how to formally evaluate the impact training has on peer educator learning and development. The information gained from self-reflective assessment tools is used to improve peer educator training as well as make the experience more developmentally beneficial for the peer educators.