Author: Karl C. Alvestad, Project Officer – University of Winchester

“… I do not panic as much as before…” These words were uttered by one of our Winchester Changing Mindsets Peer Leaders when they were encouraged, during a debrief meeting, to reflect on their journey as a Peer Leader since September. This particular Peer Leader found to their amazement that many of their peers had similar experiences and that their stories had a common resonance – they had all grown personally and developed a growth mindset through their involvement with the Changing Mindsets Project. Among the motivating factors to joining the Changing Mindsets, some leaders reported that they were hoping to give something back to their course, whilst other applied to join due to their interested in the topic of Growth Mindsets and Dweck’s ideas. Collectively they all had come in with an expectation that they were there to help others develop a growth mindset and to grow and few of them had reflected on their own growth journey.

In fact, across the board the Peer Leaders reported their development and growth as a result of their involvement with the project, here as just a few:

I find it so much easier to think that I can do it even if I struggle – in fact I don’t panic as much as before
– Peer Leader A.

After the training in September and after leading the sessions I have found that I don’t give up as easily as before
– Peer Leader B

It is strange how this has happened – I think I have gained more from these sessions than I expected I would.
– Peer Leader C.

A few weeks before the Peer Leaders were asked to reflect on their own growth journey some of them informed me that they felt concerned about their last workshop and interventions because they felt they felt unsure if they were comfortable with remember the material that had been covered in the training in September, and they asked for a revision session. Sadly time did not permit a joint up training session, so we arranged instead for alternative support in form of a podcast on the material and a step by step guide for the material for the session. Even considering the Peer Leaders concerns about their own familiarity with the session material, they later claimed they managed quite well and they later reported that it was this session they felt they had gained most from.

These reports and evidence lead me to believe that for these Peer Leaders the actions of teaching and leading other students through their change contributed to their own development of a growth mindset, in other words: they learned best through teaching others and reflecting on the process. This observation does not surprise me – instead, it underpins much of what we previously believed about learning and its implementation through reflective practice and active learning. If we translate this learning point from the Peer Leaders, and apply it to participating students in general, learning and developing of a growth mindset best facilitated when the individual is actively engaging with the material. Consequently, this means we need to consciously work towards ensuring that intervention participants have the opportunity to actively engage with growth mindset ideas – but also that they have the opportunity to reflect on their own growth at the end of their interventions.

On the basis of the Peer Leaders’ growth – I suspect guiding other students through their interventions and facilitating growth, might have helped and strengthened the impact of the interventions. As such, it is my belief that active and engaging learning is crucial for developing strong growth mindsets and that this contributes to making the role of Peer Leader for the Changing Mindsets project a more valuable experience for the leaders.

On the basis of these experiences, it is evident that working as a Changing Mindsets Peer Leader have a positive impact on the leaders, as well as giving them an opportunity to give something back to their course and learning community. So if you do have the opportunity to become a peer leader I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

… and remember: don’t panic, you can do it!

Ps. If you are a student at one of the universities participating in this project and want to explore if there are opportunities to be a peer leader at your university, please contact your local research officer, as they might be recruiting soon. For instance, the Winchester University Changing Mindsets team are currently recruiting Peer leaders for next academic year (2018-19) with the closing date 6th April 2018, and if you want more information please feel free to contact PAL@winchester.ac.uk

Disclaimer:  the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the values of the University of Portsmouth or the extended Partnership.

Reflecting on Our Growth stories
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