These are students trained to help their peers with study-related problems – from motivation dips to learning how to plan.
Joke Marinissen has been involved in the Peer2Peer project from the start. Previously, she set up the Writing Lab at WUR, where students help each other to master the art of academic writing. ‘Peer2Peer works well because you are not in a teacher-student relationship. With Peer2Peer, we encourage students to stay in control themselves.’
Even before the Covid outbreak, Marinissen was toying with the idea of rolling out the Peer2Peer concept more generally. ‘Students come to our university from a wide variety of backgrounds: people with no experience of an academic environment; people from very different learning cultures, and so on. So it can be hard for them to navigate the situation.’
There are currently eight Peer2Peer coaches at work. Marinissen: ‘After learning the ropes in a training project, they independently map out learning paths with students who seek our help. The focus lies on study skills; students with bigger problems are referred to professional services.’
‘Things often look up straightaway for the students who come to us,’ says Marinissen. ‘They have then taken the first step towards doing something about their problems themselves and taking things into their own hands.’
Things often look up straightaway for students who come to us
Soraya Lamochi (23) is a Master’s student of International Land & Water Management and a Peer2Peer coach. ‘I was a student assistant when I was doing my Bachelor’s at Groningen University, and I gave private tuition. I like the contact with other students and in this job, I also got the chance to learn about coaching myself. We first had training in communicative techniques: what kinds of questions to ask so that students find solutions for themselves.’
‘I’ve had clients since December. Their problems are mainly with motivation and often Covid-related. And some of them find it hard to plan effectively. International students sometimes have to adjust to Dutch culture – how to approach your teachers, for instance. I definitely get the feeling my clients benefit from the coaching. Even if we only meet a couple of times, you can see them making progress.’ Thijs Stegmann (23), a Bachelor’s student of Biotechnology, is a Peer2Peer coach too. ‘Students come to you because they want to change something about their lives. I start a conversation with them to identify the problem and look for possible solutions together. I’ve been in the position myself when I thought I really wasn’t going to manage a course. When that happens, you can feel stuck. It’s nice to be able to go to someone to talk about it.’