We did it together – peer-coaching in upper secondary education

Article first published on SeOppi 2/2018.

Text: Minna Lepistö, Citizen’s Forum

Working in the Adaptable Learning Paths project gets me to reminisce about my own study years. The topmost issue that comes to my mind from upper secondary studies is my friends – the bubbly characters as well as the more reflective personalities. Going in, with wobbly legs, to take that first test of our matriculation examinations… The approving encouragement from peers, felt by the entire group of us students, forms an empowering experience that stays in my mind. “We’ll manage. We’ll pass at least”.

Upper secondary studies form a comprehensive phase in a student’s life in which it is important not only to acquire learning but also to establish networks with fellow students. During studies, it is necessary that we are allowed to take time for our personal formation processes, wondering about our own paths, tasting the different options and possibilities. On our study paths, we reach for our dreams but we also stumble; we work at fitting ourselves into our groups at school, into work placements and into our professional reference groups. We grasp at the future, aided by the staff in our school and supported by our peers. Even though peer relationships usually grow naturally and little by little in our daily student life, it is important that educational institutions support that growth.

The Adaptable Learning Paths project was a joint effort by the educational association Citizens’ Forum, Hämeenlinna Lyseo Upper Secondary School, and Omnia – the Joint Authority of Education in the Espoo Region, in which the parties developed a method for peer-coaching. Peer-coaching is based on encounters that involve action, dialogue and respect, and its purpose is to offer comprehensive support for students for their coping and progress in studies. Peer-coaches are individuals trained from among the students and staff at school, both young people and adults. The themes in the work with peers are not limited to progress in studies and students may bring up other issues they feel important. Such issues may include e.g. the significance of hobbies, daily routines and personal relationships for keeping up the motivation to study and for living a meaningful life.

In an ideal situation, we all would have the chance to shine, be seen and be heard as the persons we are. Peer-coaching brings experiences of success into our reach. We are all capable of listening to another person with respect, encouragement and support for the other’s strengths, provided that we are given sufficient time and a safe place. I hope that very many students get a happy, flying start toward their adult lives, feeling the same warmth I did when the student cap was set on my head: “We really did it – we managed, we succeeded together”.

The material Together on study paths – peer-coaching in upper secondary level [Yhdessä opiskelupolulla – Vertaisvalmennus toisella asteella] presents the work method applied in peer-coaching and gives practical suggestions for initiating such coaching in upper secondary schools. The guide is intended for teachers, career counsellors, study counsellors, workplace instructors and dormitory supervisors in vocational and general upper secondary education. It also serves as learning material for students in training for peer-coaching.

You may download the material free of charge: https://kansalaisfoorumi.fi/julkaisu/vertaisvalmennus-toisella-asteella/

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