A new peer mentoring class offered to everyone at Kent State is being recognized at a national education conference in April.

Relational Learning in Education, also known as the Peer Mentoring Project, has been a special topics course for the past few years and was only offered to education majors. This year, the course is open to all majors as an elective, said professor Anne Morrison, creator of the course.

Morrison, doctoral student Kristen Chorba and a few selected mentors will present at the American Educational Research Association’s national conference. They have been to several conferences over the past few years, Chorba said, where students in the program, along with Morrison and Chorba, gave presentations on the mentoring program.

“I expect a higher caliber of expectations of us, as presenters,” Chorba said. “I think it’ll also help us to get some new ideas on where we can go from here. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of feedback on things we can do differently, ways that we can improve or new things to think about.”

Students taking the course mentor fellow students in an Educational Psychology course. They must also mentor either international students in the Conversation Partners program or students at Belden Elementary School in Canton, Morrison said.

Morrison plans to adjust coursework to meet individual programs as interest in the Relational Learning class increases.

“As we grow in number, which we are hoping to do,” Morrison said, “we may have someone from the business college or from the communications college who want to work with people in their field as well, and we’ll be designing other opportunities for students.”

“We have a theater major (in the class) this semester and it’s nice to get a different perspective on things,” said Michael Wylie, one of the student mentors in the class. “When we’re all education (majors), we all typically have the same values. So to get someone from completely outside of the School of Education and get their perspective, it’s helpful.”

Educational Psychology introduces students to the behind-the-scenes work teachers undertake in the field. One essential part of the class is creating lesson plans.

“It’s a class that’s open to interpretation and you can put your own spin on things, where you never had that before,” Wylie said. “So the need for the mentors for the kids in class is high because it’s kind of an overwhelming experience at first.”

Over the past few years, the Relational Learning course has developed out of student interest, Morrison said.

“I’ve been teaching Educational Psychology for years. From what I experienced, students would come back and ask if they could come in and sit in on my class,” she said. “I’d ask the old students if they’d want to help me teach and they’d say, ‘Yeah, that’d be great; it’d be good experience.’”

Not only did they want that experience, but they also wanted to remember what they learned.

“The past students wanted the experience but they also wanted to commit the information to memory,” Morrison said. “They know from the theoretical frameworks that if you teach something, the likelihood that you’ll remember it is much greater, so that was going on.”

Having the support in her Educational Psychology class was helpful to both the current and past students, Morrison said. So she started offering students credit to help out in the class, by starting the Peer Mentoring Project.

Morrison said that her students are the reason for the high success of the class.

“With the students’ dedication, it’s really not just a little program anymore,” she said. “It’s really become something that’s very much become a professional development and experience now that we’ve all benefited from.”

Contact Chelsea Cassudakis at ccassuda@kent.edu.

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