- Designing an Honors Peer Advising CenterSmith, Amber Zoe (European Honors Council, 2017-10-18)
...As we transition from honors program to college, our services are growing in scope and complexity, as are our responsibilities. We need a new way to provide reliable, personalized honors student support.
Learning centers have been shown to increase student retention, satisfaction, academic achievement, and self-reliance, all outcomes that we hope to foster as we grow. And while community connection and campus involvement are instrumental in helping all students thrive, it has shown to be particularly essential for honors students, who need a community of academic peers.
Fortunately, Honors at Virginia Tech already has a thriving culture of peer education: our peer educators are the primary instructors of our first-year seminars and reading seminars, classes that are taken by hundreds of students every semester and that consistently receive outstanding course evaluations.
Therefore, to increase student support in the context of our intellectual community, we decided to create a learning center grounded in our strength: an Honors Peer Advising Center.
- Supporting Peer Educators in First-Year Honors Seminars at Virginia TechSmith, Amber Zoe (Michigan State University, in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and the Honors Education at Research Universities biennial conference, 2016)First-year seminars help students transition to and get involved in college faster, which can result in higher academic achievement, stronger peer relationships, and deeper self-knowledge: elements of a more successful and satisfying college experience. University Honors at Virginia Tech began offering first-year seminars in the mid-1990s but experienced difficulty maintaining them as our student population grew. This difficulty led us to reform the structure, content, and leadership of the seminars. Now they are co-led by student teaching assistants (STAs) and faculty members. The new seminars emphasize active, collaborative learning and self-reflection. We educate our STAs through pre-semester training and a fall-semester student teaching practicum. This new course model better supports our STAs and encourages students to form good habits early. Although we still have many opportunities for improvement, the new first-year honors seminar and student teaching practicum are fostering reflection, faculty and peer relationships, and campus integration.
- Discussion Facilitation Techniques for Honors Peer EducatorsSmith, Amber Zoe (European Honors Council (EHC), 2017-04-28)In the Virginia Tech Honors College, honors peer educators are students who apply to be the sole instructors for discussion-based classes, such as first-year seminars and reading seminars, for academic credit (Smith, 2016). This research suggests that discussion-based teaching is an effective way of meeting honors students’ needs, and it describes discussion-based teaching techniques that are accessible and beneficial to honors peer educators.