Peer teachers provide support, gain experience
Diamond Peer Teacher Chris Mulvey helps underclassmen grasp accounting concepts during one of his biweekly study sessions.
If students are looking for slack — such as forgiven absences or someone to do their homework for them — peer teacher Rupal Patel says she can’t help.
But the senior marketing major is eager and willing to assist students struggling with concepts covered in instructor Colleen Vann’s “Introduction to Marketing” class. After all, it’s her job.
Patel is one of 25 undergraduate students who are taking part in the University’s new Diamond Peer Teacher Program, which pairs first- and second-year courses with upperclassmen who are interested in gaining teaching experience in their disciplines.
Sponsored by the Vice Provost’s Office, the Diamond Peer Teacher Program aims to benefit students by providing extra instructional support while also providing teaching experience to aspiring educators and graduate school candidates. For their time, peer teachers receive a stipend of $2,250 and tuition remission for a one-credit internship.
Patel said the Diamond Peer Teacher Program has allowed her to merge her aspirations in the business field with her desire to teach. After graduation in May, Patel will work in the corporate world, but she hopes one day to return to academia to help students the way she says her own professors have helped her.
“It’s a great way for undergraduates to get involved in the faculty arena,” she said. “I’ve gained a new understanding for what goes on behind the scenes.”
Mary Conran, an adjunct marketing professor and Patel’s faculty mentor, said Patel’s availability in and out of the classroom enables students to feel comfortable asking questions and seeking additional help.
“She’s not very far removed from their role,” she said. “This was a great opportunity for her to get a hands-on look at not only teaching, but also at learning how to run a classroom.”
The presence of a peer teacher can also allow professors to bring more creativity and interactivity to a course. Vann said that without Patel’s help, she would not have been able to organize group projects and discussions in her 125-seat lecture.
“I’m just so grateful and thankful she was able to get involved,” she said.
Peer teachers can also provide students with supplemental information and guidance based on their personal experiences. During her study sessions with students, senior Nadia Stadnycki, a peer teacher in German, not only reviews material and practices conversation skills with students, but also has discussed her experiences living abroad in Austria. Stadnycki said the program has further spurred her interest in teaching, and she is considering teaching English in Germany after graduation.
“I’m learning how to teach as much as they are learning a language,” she said. “This was a great experience for me to get my feet wet without having to jump in at once. I think it’s a great thing for people who are thinking about [teaching] but aren’t in education.”
Junior Chris Mulvey said his role as a peer teacher in accounting has enabled him become a better student and strengthened his understanding of core concepts, which helps him in his more advanced studies.
“When you know how to teach something, you see what’s important to the teacher and what they are trying to stress in class,” he said.
So far, response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, said Duane Smith, assistant vice provost.
“Faculty response was very enthusiastic,” he said. “The only negative thing that’s come to me at this particular point is people asking me why there aren’t opportunities for more students.”
However, Smith sees potential for the program to grow in the future.
“If we have success in the first couple of times that we do it … we’re in a much better position to argue for and then to get additional funding so that we could then support more people participating in the endeavor.”
The Diamond Peer Teacher Program is open to students of all majors. Fall 2006 applications are due March 17.
The applications are available online at
- By Patti Truant