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Peer education in students leadership programme

  1. 1. NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES, no. 133, Spring 2011 © Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/ss.385 The use of peer educators is standard in many student leadership development programs. This chapter includes an overview of leadership theory, leadership research, and considerations for designing curricular and co-curricular peer leadership programs. 6 Peer Education in Student Leadership Programs: Responding to Co-Curricular Challenges Paige Haber Leadership development is an outcome of colleges and universities today stressed both in and out of the classroom (Keeling, 2004). Additionally, leadership is often included in institutional missions, with emphasis on students developing as responsible citizens or leaders (Astin and Astin, 2000). Research demonstrates that college students develop leadership through a number of different activities and experiences, the most signifi- cant being those that involve peer interaction, such as conversations or interaction with peers in classroom or co-curricular settings (Astin, 1993; Dugan and Komives, 2007). Accordingly, opportunities for peer interaction and leadership roles should be a cornerstone of leadership programs. In this chapter, I examine the use of peer leadership in curricular and co-curricular leadership programs. First, emergent perspectives on leader- ship are presented, followed by key developments in research related to peer leadership. I then submit considerations for implementing peer lead- ership opportunities in leadership programs. Emergent Perspectives of Leadership There are many different perspectives and understandings of the concept of leadership in higher education and greater society (Northouse, 2007). Lead- ership has traditionally been viewed as a quality of a person or as a position or title. This leader-centric perspective is limiting, as it restricts leadership to an individual and is often viewed as an inherent characteristic that is not 65
  2. 2. 66 EMERGING ISSUES AND PRACTICES IN PEER EDUCATION NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss developable. The concept of leadership has developed, progressed, and emerged over the past thirty years to be more relational, process-oriented, service-directed, and systems-focused. According to this emergent perspec- tive leadership involves: • A process, not a position (Komives and Wagner, 2009; Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007; Shankman and Allen, 2008) • Relationships and collaboration between group members (Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007; Komives and Wagner, 2009; Shankman and Allen, 2008; Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 2009; Kelley, 1995) • Working toward or serving a greater good beyond oneself (Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007; Komives and Wagner, 2009) • Morals and ethics (Burns, 1978; Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007) • Awareness of oneself, ability to manage oneself, and continuous self- development (Shankman and Allen, 2008; Komives and Wagner, 2009; Kelley, 1995) • Different, yet interconnected levels of individual, group, and system and requires an awareness and ability to operate within each of the levels (Komives and Wagner, 2009; Shankman and Allen, 2008; Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 2009) Many of these tenets reflect interaction between group members or peers. A few of the models that stress these emergent leadership perspec- tives are presented below. Relational Leadership Model. The relational leadership model (RLM) stresses leadership as a group process that includes five key components: it is purposeful, inclusive, empowering, ethical, and process- oriented (Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007). Purpose is at the core of the model, stressing that a common goal or purpose should guide the leadership process, and this overall goal or purpose should be directed toward positive change. Inclusivity is being open to and valuing difference in others, developing the strengths of others, and collaborating with a variety of stakeholders. Empowerment includes sharing power through developing a sense of agency and ownership in individuals and promoting and enabling the involvement of others. The ethical component focuses on acting in line with one’s individual values and the values of the group and commitment to contributing to something positive and beyond oneself. The final component, process, includes a focus on how a group functions and interacts when working toward the purpose. This component stresses the “how” of the process, not just the “what” of the outcome. Additionally, the model stresses a group process and does not distinguish between individual positions (such as leader or follower), thus stressing the importance and interaction of all group members.
  3. 3. PEER EDUCATION IN STUDENT LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS 67 NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss Social Change Model of Leadership. The social change model of leadership (SCM) stresses leadership as a process and is inclusive of all people regardless of their roles (Komives and Wagner, 2009). The model includes three levels and accompanying values: individual, group, and community (see Figure 6.1). The individual values involve qualities of individuals that contribute to positive group functioning, the group values reflect group skills and processes that contribute to affecting positive change, and the community value focuses on the greater community’s needs. These three levels interact and together contribute to the overall goal of the model: positive social change. Group interaction is inherent in this model and is particularly stressed in the group values of the model. Figure 6.1. Values of the Social Change Model of Leadership The Seven C’s: The Critical Values of the Social Change Model INDIVIDUAL VALUES Consciousness of Self Being self-aware of the beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions that motivate you to take action. Being mindful, or aware or your current emotional state, behavior, and perceptual lenses. Congruence Acting in ways that are consistent with your values and beliefs. Thinking, feeling, and behaving with consistency, genuineness, authenticity, and honesty towards others. Commitment Having significant investment in an idea or person, both in terms of intensity and duration. Having the energy to serve the group and its goal. Commitment originates from within, but others can create an environment that supports an individual’s passions. GROUP VALUES Collaboration Working with others in a common effort, sharing responsibility, authority. Multiplying group effectiveness by capitalizing on various perspectives and talents, and on the power of diversity to generate creative solutions and actions. Common Purpose Having shared aims and values. Involving others in building a group’s vision and purpose. Controversy with Civility Recognizing two fundamental realities of any creative effort: (1) that differences in viewpoint are inevitable, and (2) that such differences must be aired openly but with civility. COMMUNITY VALUES Citizenship Believing in a process whereby an individual and/or group become responsibly connected to the community and to society through some activity. Recognizing that members of communities are not independent, but interdependent. Recognizing individuals and groups have responsibility for the welfare of others. Since it is a key assumption of the SCM that the ultimate goal of leadership is positive social change, “change” is considered to be at the “hub” of the model Change Believing in the importance of making a better world and a better society for oneself and others. Believing that individuals, groups, and communities have the ability to work together to make that change. Source: Adapted from Higher Education Research Institute, 1996, p. 21; Tyree, 1998, p.176; and Astin, 1996, pp. 6-7. Note: Taken from Wagner, W. “The Social Change Model of Leadership: A Brief Overview.” Concepts & Connections, 2006, 15, p. 9. Used with permission from the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.
  4. 4. 68 EMERGING ISSUES AND PRACTICES IN PEER EDUCATION NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss Emotional Intelligence and Leadership. Recent scholarship merges the study and practice of leadership and emotional intelligence (EI). EI is a type of human intelligence characterized by awareness and management of one’s emotions, awareness of others’ emotions, and the ability to manage relationships with others (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, 2002). Goleman and colleagues (2002) combined EI with leadership in developing the concept of primal leadership, which involves four dimensions. The two intrapersonal dimensions are self-awareness and self-management. The two interpersonal dimensions are social awareness and relationship-management. Each dimension includes additional competencies. Similarly, Shankman and Allen’s (2008) model of emotionally intelligent leadership, developed for college students, weaves together key tenets of EI and leadership. This model includes three areas of consciousness: context, self, and others. Each area includes specific capacities associated with emotionally intelligent leadership. Group interaction is stressed within the consciousness of other capacities (e.g., empathy, influence, developing relationships). Additional Models. Additional models of emergent leadership perspectives include: • Adaptive leadership (Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 2009) • Five exemplary practices of leadership (Kouzes and Posner, 2008) • Followership (Kelley, 1995) • Servant leadership (Greenleaf, 2008) Developments in Leadership Research The emergent leadership perspectives presented above stress the impor- tance of leadership as a shared process with others as opposed to a hierar- chical, leader-centric focus. These models have been used as frameworks to study college students’ leadership development. The findings from these studies have implications for the importance of peer interaction in the development of leadership capacity. Leadership Identity Development. The recent leadership identity development (LID) grounded theory research examines the process by which college students develop in their leadership identity toward viewing leadership as a relational process (Komives, Longerbeam, and others, 2006). More specifically, the researchers studied those students who were observed to demonstrate relational leadership, as framed by the relational leadership model. A number of variables emerged as significant in contributing to students’ leadership identity development. One of the most prevalent categories was developmental influences, which includes meaningful involvement and peer influences, both of which heavily focus on peer interaction. Another category that emerged as significant was group influences, which includes engaging with others in groups, learning from ongoing group membership, and changing perceptions of groups. Changing
  5. 5. PEER EDUCATION IN STUDENT LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS 69 NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss view of self with others also emerged in the research and speaks to the way students view themselves in relation to their peers. Students’ relationships with peers gradually become more relational, shifting from dependence to independence to interdependence. The other two categories were developing self and students’ broadening view of leadership. The interaction of these five categories led to the development a six- stage model that describes the process by which students’ views of leader- ship shift from leader-focused to more complex views that are increasingly collaborative and relational (Komives, Longerbeam, and others, 2006). The stages and associated examples of students’ views of leadership and rela- tionships with peers are: 1. Awareness: “Other people are leaders” (Dependent) 2. Exploration/engagement: “I want to be involved” (Dependent) 3. Leader identified: “A leader gets things done” (Independent/ Dependent) 4. Leadership differentiated: “We are all doing leadership together” (Interdependent) 5. Generativity: “I am responsible as a member of my communities to facilitate the development of others as leaders and enrich the life of our groups” (Interdependent) 6. Integration/synthesis: “I know I am able to work effectively with others to accomplish change from any place in the organization” (Interdependent) There is a key transition between stages three and four, when students realize the complexity of the leadership situation and begin to rely on oth- ers. As students progress in their development, their relationship with peers and recognition of others in a group leadership process become more complex. Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership. The Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) is a national study of college student leadership development framed by the Social Change Model (SCM; Dugan and Komives, 2007). This research supports the idea that peer interaction is key for students’ leadership development. MSL research focuses on both students’ socially responsible leadership (the term used to describe leadership as reflected by the SCM) and leadership self-efficacy, or one’s confidence in his or her ability to lead. Significant environmental variables related to peer interaction are presented in Table 6.1. Additional Leadership Research. Other leadership research important for understanding the leadership development of college students today revolves around differences in social identities, particularly race and gender. Overall, women tend to embrace more relational and process-oriented views and styles of leadership than men (Eagly and Carli, 2007; Dugan, Komives, and Segar, 2008; Kezar and Moriarty, 2000).
  6. 6. 70 EMERGING ISSUES AND PRACTICES IN PEER EDUCATION NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss Similarly, students of color tend to adopt more relational and process- oriented views and styles than their white counterparts (Dugan, Komives, and Segar, 2008; Kezar and Moriarty, 2000). Many of the emergent leadership models may be more welcoming models of leadership for women and students of color, two groups historically excluded from traditional notions of leadership. Peer Education in Leadership Programs As leadership programs on college campuses continue to grow in number and scope, there is also increased focus on these more emergent leadership perspectives and thoughts (Komives, Dugan, and others, 2006). Many of these leadership perspectives stress the importance of peer interaction, and research highlighted above demonstrates how such interaction is crucial for students’ leadership development. Leadership Programs. Just as there are many different understandings of leadership, there are also varied understandings of what constitutes a leadership program. For the purpose of this chapter, a leadership program is defined as a collection of activities or experiences “intentionally designed with the purpose of developing or enhancing the leadership skills, knowledge, or abilities of college students” (Haber, 2006b, p. 29). Further, a peer leadership program is a leadership program that includes use of students to assist in the development of other students’ leadership skills, knowledge, or abilities. The term peer leaders is used to describe those students who have a role in the program in which they serve as a leader or educator for other students. There are many benefits of incorporating peer education in leadership programs: • Peer leadership provides a valuable real-time, experiential learning and development experience for peer leaders. Table 6.1. Significant Peer-Related Environmental Variables From Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership Research Outcome: Socially Responsible Leadership Outcome: Leadership Self-Efficacy Socio-cultural conversations with peersa Positional leadership roles in college organizationsa,b Formal leadership programsa,b Involvement in college organizationsa,b Socio-cultural conversations with peersc Positional leadership roles in college organizationsc Formal leadership programsc a Dugan and Komives, 2007. b Haber and Komives, 2009; Haber, 2006a. c Dugan, Garland, Jacoby, and Gasiorski, 2008.
  7. 7. PEER EDUCATION IN STUDENT LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS 71 NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss • Participants can benefit greatly from interaction with peer leaders. • Peer leaders can provide a support system for younger, less- experienced participants and can assist in their overall campus life experience and holistic development. • Peer leadership opportunities can help increase students’ ownership and commitment to the program. • Peer leaders provide a valuable human resource for the program. • Including students in significant roles within the program can assist with sustainability of the program and being in tune with the student population and their interests and needs. Types of Programs. Peer leadership opportunities can be incorporated into leadership programs in a variety of ways. Some larger- scale leadership programs may include aspects of the program that have a peer leadership component, whereas other programs may purely focus on peer leadership. This is likely to be determined by the mission and learning outcomes of the program and the available resources. Some of the different types of programs and experiences in which peer leadership can be incorporated are listed below. Peer Leadership Councils. Often made up of upper-class students with previous leadership experience, peer leadership councils develop leadership opportunities for other students on campus. Staff advisors can assist with the council, help maintain continuity and standards, and provide leadership development opportunities for the peer leaders on the council. Leadership Classes. Leadership courses for credit can incorporate stu- dents as teaching assistants or discussion leaders. Additionally, peer inter- action can be included in less formal ways such as creating working groups and asking groups to identify group leaders or project leaders that may rotate per project or activity. The McDonough Leadership Program at Mari- etta College ( includes a teaching assis- tantship program for upperclassmen, whereby they assist with curriculum design and delivery. The teaching assistant takes a one-credit course the semester before serving as a teaching assistant. Leadership Teams. Leadership teams are learning communities of stu- dents that focus on leadership through curriculum, discussions, activities, projects, or other experiences. These teams can meet on a recurring basis, and experienced upperclass students can serve as team facilitators. Retreats. Leadership retreats can be single or multi-day-long experiences and can include a small group learning community led by peers. Similar to the leadership teams above, this experience can include curriculum, discussion, activities, or debriefing. The University of Arizona’s Blue Chip Program ( includes a three-day social justice retreat, Equiss. Upperclass student team leaders partner with advisors from across campus to lead groups of
  8. 8. 72 EMERGING ISSUES AND PRACTICES IN PEER EDUCATION NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss participants in social justice and leadership activities, discussions, and reflections. Team leaders are trained on curriculum, facilitation skills, and inclusive language. Workshops and Conferences. Peer leaders can lead workshop series or conferences that focus on a variety of topics. These peer leaders can, similar to the leadership teams and retreats above, engage students in a variety of ways, as well as share their own leadership experiences. Mentoring Programs. Peer leadership mentoring programs provide an opportunity for students to build meaningful relationships with upperclass students and for peer leaders to gain valuable mentoring and helping skills. Mentoring topics and activities can be provided to assist in building this relationship. The Blueprint Leadership Program at University of California Berkeley ( identifies five stu- dents a year to serve as leadership mentors. The mentors provide one-on- one and group mentoring to participants and assist with workshop design and delivery. Additionally, the mentors participate in training and ongoing meetings for their leadership development. Consulting Services. Peer leadership consulting provides an opportu- nity for students in different organizations to gain expertise from experi- enced peer leaders. Peer leaders can observe student organizations, conduct meetings with organizational members, and provide them with resources and advice. Consulting programs can include an array of possible workshop topics or can be more specialized based on the group or topic. Leadership E.D.G.E. (Experiencing Dynamic Growth through Experiential Education; is part of Hilltop Leader- ship Development at St. Edward’s University (Austin, Texas). Peer leaders are trained to lead teambuilding sessions, workshops, and organizational consulting to student groups. Groups can request consulting and facilitation on topics such as teamwork, decision making, and problem solving. Leadership Program Planning and Coordinating. In addition to the spe- cific programs cited above, peer leaders can be utilized in administrative and coordinating roles within a leadership program, such as holding office hours, planning events, greeting students at events, and developing new program ideas. This allows peer leaders to interact with students in the program in a variety of ways and can lead to building more meaningful relationships and commitment among participants. Program Considerations. Included in this section are additional considerations for the development of leadership programs. More detailed and comprehensive information on these guidelines and others can be found in the CAS Standards for Student Leadership Programs (Council for the Advancement of Standards [CAS], 2009) and the Handbook for Student Leadership Programs (Komives and others, in press; Komives, Dugan, and others, 2006). Mission. Every leadership program should have a mission that centers around students’ leadership learning and development. If peer leadership is
  9. 9. PEER EDUCATION IN STUDENT LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS 73 NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss a cornerstone aspect of the program, it may be helpful to include this in the mission of the program. Consider how the mission fits into the larger mis- sion of the department or institution (Haber, 2006b; Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2009). Students in the peer leadership council at the University of Maryland (http://www.union developed the mission, vision, and values of the council. Their mission is to work “collaboratively to develop stu- dents’ capacities to be social change agents, critical thinkers, and life-long learners through challenging and engaging leadership learning opportunities.” Program Structure. Consider the different structural aspects of the pro- gram including the number and types of learning experiences and accom- panying time commitments. Some programs include different themes, tracks, or phases for different students based on interests, class level, or outcomes (Haber, 2006b). Also, consider incorporating tangible take- aways, benefits, or credentials, such as certificates or graduation honors, academic credit, compensation, or awards for the peer leaders and the other program participants. This can help increase interest, credibility, and commitment. Learning Outcomes. Incorporating learning outcomes in a program guides program development and assessment. Learning outcomes should emphasize the holistic development of students and purposefully focus on preparing students to be productive and engaged citizens (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2009). The CAS standards outline the following dimensions of learning outcomes for leadership pro- grams: knowledge acquisition, integration, construction, and application; cognitive complexity; intrapersonal development; interpersonal compe- tence; humanitarianism and civic engagement; and practical competence. Learning outcomes can be developed for the different experiences within a program, such as for the peer leader role or specific activities. Learning Experiences. Utilizing a variety of learning experiences and strategies can help engage students with different learning styles. Experi- ences that actively engage the students, such as hands-on activities, real-life scenarios or situations, service-learning projects, particularly when coupled with intentional reflection activities, can allow for greater meaning-making for the students. The mission of the program, learning outcomes, and the student population being served should all be considered when determin- ing the particular topics covered and opportunities provided in the pro- gram. Additionally, consider incorporating leadership topics and models that reflect emergent thinking on leadership, such as those presented ear- lier in this chapter. The Students Taking Active Roles (STAR) freshman leadership program ( at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) includes a series of ses- sions focusing on a variety of leadership topics, framed in part by the SCM and the Jesuit values of the institution. These topics are understanding
  10. 10. 74 EMERGING ISSUES AND PRACTICES IN PEER EDUCATION NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENT SERVICES • DOI: 10.1002/ss leadership, self, and others; values and leadership; power and privilege; addressing bias; and reflection. Human Resources. Consider how peer leaders can be utilized within a program alongside professional staff. Staff can serve as advisors or co-facil- itators/co-leaders. Defining these roles, relationships, and accompanying authority and responsibility structures can help provide sufficient support and oversight of the experiences and program. Peer Leader Training and Development. Ongoing training and develop- ment opportunities can help ensure the success of the peer leadership ini- tiatives and can help with the leadership development of the peer leaders. Training should include administrative aspects (e.g., policies and proce- dures, running a program or meeting, referral skills, emergency protocol), intrapersonal aspects (e.g., self-assessment of leadership capacities, reflec- tion skills, awareness and management of emotions), and interpersonal aspects (e.g., facilitation and presentation skills, helping skills, conflict management, intercultural competence, and group development). Consider using the emergent leadership models provided earlier in this chapter as a foundation for training peer leaders. For example, training topics focused on collaboration from the SCM (Komives and Wagner, 2009) and empow- erment from the RLM (Komives, Lucas, and McMahon, 2007) are impor- tant topics that could encourage a peer leader–student relationship based on influence and collaboration. Ongoing evaluation and reflection activities can be incorporated throughout the duration of the peer leadership experi- ence, which can help students solidify their learning and make sense of their experiences. Additionally, providing the time and space for peer lead- ers to discuss their experiences with one another and with advisors can be beneficial and serve as a valuable support system. Conclusion The integration of peer education into leadership programs provides a number of opportunities for increased leadership capacity and enhanced program development. Though leadership programs themselves are anchored in different theories and approaches to leadership, the role of peers in developing and implementing programs are consistently integral to program success. As research about leadership evolves, one constant will remain: increasing and enhancing such leadership programs will contribute to the institutional goals and missions to develop responsible and capable leadership and citizens. Involving peer educators in this important work benefits the peer educators themselves, the student participants, and the sponsoring institution as well. References Astin, A. W. What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass, 1993.
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