A novel interactive theatre-based video-supported training resource for STEM peer educators

M.Cecilia Barone
Assistant Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
University of Rochester

Need. Student-centered pedagogies that emphasize peer instruction and collaborative learning have been a nation-wide staple of undergraduate STEM education for over two decades and have been consistently shown to improve overall student success.

However, a closer look at the experiences of students in collaborative learning sessions suggests that lack of student participation can limit successful implementation and that students experience both internal and external barriers to participation in groupwork.

The training of undergraduate peer educators is a critical quality control mechanism to the successful implementation of these peer-led pedagogies. Significant efforts have been invested in developing appropriate curricula and resources for training peer educators. This project seeks to improve peer-led STEM collaborative learning experiences by providing new training resources for peer educators to recognize and mitigate barriers to student participation.

The new training resources will use videos and discussion prompts based on interactive theatre to help peer educators (i) identify barriers to student participation in groupwork, (ii) examine their own assumptions about student participation, and (iii) plan their collaborative learning sessions using strategies that can mitigate these participation barriers. The project builds on the established use of interactive theatre in faculty development and teacher training, and on our own experience using this approach in training peer educators. The project expands on the live interactive theatre approach by using a combination of videos, classroom discussions and assignments that can provide greater flexibility for both trainers and trainees.

Guiding questions. To assess the impact of these new training materials, we will use the following evaluation questions:
· To what extent did peer educators find the training modules valuable and applicable?
· What are the cognitive and affective learning gains for peer educators who have participated in the training?
· To what extent did peer educators who participated in the training apply learned content in the collaborative problem-solving sessions they lead?

Outcomes. In addition to providing new training resources to STEM peer educators and instructors through a free website, this project will generate new knowledge in one or more of the following areas:
• understanding the value of an interactive theatre-based, video-supported training approach in the training of peer educators
• understanding the impact of the new training resource on peer educators’ knowledge, attitudes and practices in inclusive facilitation of groupwork
• testing the feasibility of adapting interactive theatre-based training approaches to a digital platform (combination of videos and interactive website) to convey and simulate some of the elements of the live interactive theatre experience.

We have developed the first of two video-based modules and are currently testing it at our institution. We will share our preliminary findings and show our training resources to interested audience members.

Broader impacts. While these resources are intended primarily for undergraduate peer educators supporting STEM courses, instructors at all levels and in all disciplines could benefit from using these resources to identify and mitigate barriers to participation in teamwork.



M.Cecilia Barone, University of Rochester, NY; Joe Dinnocenzo, University of Rochester, NY; Robin Frye, University of Rochester, NY; Karen Gilbert, University of Rochester, NY; Nic Hammond, University of Rochester, NY; Rachel Remmel, University of Rochester, NY; Kyle Trenshaw, University of Rochester, NY