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What is peer training?

  1. A horizontal process

The method of peer training is based upon the belief that young people deliver a message to their peers that is often more credible and efficient than when it is delivered by authority figures. Contrarily to formal education settings where the transmission of knowledge is vertical (typically: a lecture delivered by a teacher to its pupils), peer training is a horizontal process where peers educate each other in a spirit of mutual learning. It assumes that all individuals are both learners and teachers and that the knowledge of a group is necessarily greater than the knowledge of one individual.

Peer training methods have been used by many over the years, from upholding the theories of Aristotle to joint educational systems, which were very popular in Europe in the 18th century.

Peer training is now an increasingly important form of non-formal education in the youth sector, providing opportunities for youth empowerment through the development of self-awareness, social consciousness, special skills or talents, intercultural competencies and community-based projects. It requires a pedagogical reflection about how to support young people in the long term to develop competences such as a growth mindset, self-awareness, self-confidence, communication skills, teamwork skills, public speaking skills, facilitation skills, leadership skills, etc. Therefore it entails to designing training processes for young people, defining learning outcomes, and creating mechanisms to support youth in assessing, improving and transferring their competences in their personal and professional lives constantly.

 

  1. A form of social action

Education is never neutral. It is either designed to maintain the existing situation, imposing the dominant culture, knowledge and values; or education is designed to liberate people, helping them to become critical, creative, free, active and responsible members of society. People will act on the issues on which they have strong feelings. Training is a way of identifying issues of importance NOW to youth, generating critical thinking and motivation to participate in addressing social or political issues.

Peer training is, as an independent process, a political action that facilitates youth participation in society. Through training, young people experience intercultural microcosms, learn to articulate values and concerns, gain valuable skills, and can be motivated to take social or political action. Whether they are conscious social or political actors, or merely getting through life, youth have influence in a variety of sectors. The great potential they have to make positive contributions to society with consciousness and intention has not been fully tapped.

Educating and supporting young people as change agents of any kind can ultimately inspire a general evolution in the culture at large. Adults, organizations, and institutions can consider youth perspectives and needs when making decisions. If the general youth culture has an intercultural consciousness and demonstrates new competences to succeed in a diverse world, many other sectors in society will follow.

 

  1. Our approach

Materials and tools used by the partners in the process of developing this programme are built upon internationally recognised pedagogical programmes and frameworks, the most notable being:

  • the ‘Peer training programme’ of the Anti-Defamation League A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute;
  • the Y-Peer methodologies for peer-education
  • the award-winning Belieforama™ (religious diversity and anti-discrimination training) programme of CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe;
  • the ‘Learning for Well-Being’ framework of the Learning for Well-Being Foundation.

The partnership has brought an unique expertise in combining peer training, experiential learning and diversity education. The training format creates a highly participatory, experiential and interactive environments where participants develop self-awareness, genuine communication, impactful engagement, metacognitive abilities and competences of leadership, facilitation, role-modelling and project management.

 

  1. Peer training standards

In the EPTO network we have designed a comprehensive list of standards for peer training programmes. By “standard”, we mean a (required or agreed) level of quality or attainment, and/or something used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.

These standards are important in order to:

  • assess the quality of the peer training programmes (and those of its member and partner organisations);
  • provide all players in the field with a “checklist” of quality criteria to consider when designing peer training programmes
  • assist other entities wishing to improve their services through a standardisation of trainings.

This framework was the one adopted when developing the “Peers for Equality” peer training programme, ensuring its quality and relevance in the EPTO “catalogue”.

 

Peer Training Standards

 

 

STANDARDS

EXAMPLES FROM EPTO'S PRACTICE

How we do it

Aspect: HORIZONTAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
S01 Peer factor(s) should connect the participants in the training. EPTO’s usual target group is European youth (16-35 y.o.) who are mostly recruited for trainings through own member youth or youth-serving organisations, ensuring various peer factors connecting the participants (age, occupation, etc.).
S02 The peer factor(s) should be explored and built upon to create connection and sense of belonging to the group. EPTO uses activities such as the “Identity molecule”, which promotes self-awareness, helping participants understand the ways our own identity serves as a filter through which we see the world.
EPTO uses activities such as the “personal interviewing icebreaker”, which establishes some trust and openness at the beginning of a workshop/training, and helps participants feel more comfortable with one another, by sharing information on a one-to-one basis. This activity also encourages effective listening skills, so that the “listeners” can then report to the group what they learned about their partners.
S03 Ethics of equality, inclusion and respect for diversity should be guaranteed and put into action throughout the training.  Values and historical core business of the organisation: EPTO’s values are summarised by the statement : the C.O.R.E is Trust. C.O.R.E. stands for Clarity, Openness, Responsibility and Empathy. Since its beginning in 1996, EPTO has been encouraging young peer trainers in Europe to lead activities dealing with all forms of discrimination and to create (more) inclusive environments.
S04 The underlying principles of peer training should be presented to the participants and put into action throughout the training.
- Mutual learning: all individuals are both learners and teachers.
- Collective knowledge: knowledge of a group necessarily greater than knowledge of one individual.
- Legitimacy & role-modeling: a message delivered by peers is more credible and efficient than delivered by authority figures.
- Peer training as part of non formal education in the youth sector.
Every EPTO workshop or trainings starts with an introduction session presenting peer training assumptions:
- Peer groups have a big influence on the growth and development of young people.
- Young people can strongly influence the societies in which they live.
- Peer trainers need to understand themselves as people: their unique potential, the way they learn and communicate, their skills, attitudes and values.
- All individuals are “teachers” and learners.
- Peer training is a form of social action.
S05 The training should generate critical thinking, not impose any preconceived message or deliver content dictated by authority figures. Values and governance model of the organisation: resting on the assumption that a message delivered by a peer to another peer is more efficient than when it’s delivered by authority figures, EPTO is youth-led. Indeed, EPTO’s Board members are nominated by the member organisations, which are mostly youth-serving organisations, and have to be under 35 (2 Board members are appointed by the Advisory Body with no age limitation). 
S06 Competent facilitation should be ensured to manage the group process. EPTO developed a certification process linked to a competence framework, which is a transparent process offering peer trainers a path to progressively assess, develop and validate their competences through the practice of peer education. Only junior trainers (level 5) who have completed 3 EPTO trainings and several hours of practice are entitled to train other trainers, in a team with one EPTO senior trainer.
S07 A safe and supportive environment should be set up to encourage participants to take responsibility for their learning process. Regardless of its topic, every EPTO training starts with a pedagogical unit called “Building the foundation” which aims at:
- establishing a positive tone in order to help participants to be actively engaged in the workshop/training;
- outlining goals, objectives and logistics;
- linking the workshop/training to the needs of the participants.
Team-building activities are used at the beginning of every EPTO training to develop the sense of group or “team” amongst the participants through fun and games.
S08 A common ground should be reached to create a sense of ownership and provide the group with a safety net in case of conflict. Ground rules: this exercise is recommended as an introductory activity to help establish the process of group participation as opposed to lecture format. Working together to create rules not only gets the group rolling, but also makes them feel “ownership” of the agreed-upon rules. Additionally, if conflict erupts later in the workshop, the ground rules can serve as a reminder of the need for respect, openness and sensitivity.
Wants and Fears (and Contributions): the purpose of this activity is to allow participants to indicate for themselves, in a private and confidential way, their wants and fears about workshop/training issues. It also allows the participants to introduce themselves, and think about the personal contribution they can bring to the group, all of which will involve them more fully in the workshop/training.
S09 Experiential learning should be fostered for participants to live meaningful experiences, empathize and relate. Learning through experience is an approach that  EPTO uses in all their trainings to involve all aspects of the participant, focusing on the learning process for the individual. Most activities in EPTO programmes are built on a 5-step Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb; Pfeifer & Jones), always startig with a briefing (or instructions) to setup some experience (a planned event / stimulus / activity such as a role play). The experience is then followed by a debriefing where participants are invited to reflect by sharing (phase 2) their impressions and feelings and together process (phase 3) the experience. Each activity des­cription includes suggestions for questions to guide the debriefing and discus­sion to help people reflect on what happened, how they felt about the experience and how the experience compares with what they already know and relates to the wider world – generalising (Phase 4). Applying (Phase 5), or putting their learning into practice, takes place in the context of the community or youth group they are in. The role of the peer trainer is to support that process as it evolves.
S10 Formats of activities should be diversified as much as possible to match participants' inner diversity and learning patterns. Expertise on inner diversity and learning to learn: All EPTO programmes are created to support young people’s well-being. Our definition of well-being stems from the Learning for Well-being framework: rea­lizing one’s unique potential through physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development in relation to self, others and the environment. It aims notably at enabling participants to become (more) aware of their own uniqueness, and in particular of their own way of learning. People who learn how to recognise and embrace their own approach to learning – those who develop metacognitive abilities – can identify what makes learning meaningful for them resulting in a profound sense of empowerment and improved engagement with your activity. It is not always easy to propose such a frame for people to fully explore their ‘inner diversity’ (the way one learns, communicates and processes information), but every EPTO training tries to diversify as much as possible the formats of the activities, so that everyone truly connects at one point or another. So try alternating classic presentations, small group discussions, creative exercises (drawing, collage...), role plays, visualisations, meditation, activities involving movement (warm-ups, dance, mime...), use of digital media, etc.
S11 Flexibility should be ensured to leave space for participants’ ideas and to respond to the group's needs. EPTO peer trainers are encouraged to use various tools to monitor the group’s needs – and thus to be flexible to respond accordingly to these needs:
- Regular check-in and check-out to get the group's feedback;
- Daily debriefing between facilitators;
- Spontaneous changes to the agenda (sometimes a planned activity doesn’t work the way it was supposed to because the group is not in the “right mood” to engage with it, or because the format is not adapted to the learning patterns of the participants). EPTO peer trainers are used to exchange or skip activities to keep people focused without losing sight of their goals. They usually give transparency to this flexibility and have a direct conversation with the group, asking them what they would like to change in the process to be able to contribute better.
Aspect: TRANSFERRABLE LEARNING OUTCOMES
S12 Pedagogical processes and activities should be designed according to where young people start from – BEFORE the training. EPTO’s recruitment strategy and procedure are based on member organisations, guaranteeing a certain level of quality of participants sent to European trainings. To diagnose the level of competences and needs of the participants, other dispositions may include:
- Application forms (with expectations and contributions)
- (Skype) interviews;
- An initial self-assessment form (focused on competences);
- A journal or learning diary;
- A symbolic commitment (contract)
S13 Realistic and achievable learning outcomes should be defined to ensure that learning happens DURING the training. In line with its certification process, EPTO developed a competence framework detailing realistic learning outcomes for each level of EPTO training. These competences are evaluated by each participant individually (through a self-assessment form) and with a peer (through a peer-assessment form).
S14 Mechanisms and incentives should be created to support young people in improving, transferring and utilizing their competences AFTER the training. EPTO’s certification process and competence framework were designed as a way to provide participants with incentives to continue their learning path after a particular training, offering a recognition and a valuation of their competences. Peer trainers are asked to keep evidences of practice to access a further level in the certification, formalized through an EPTO passport where they can collect stickers (one for each of the 6 certification levels).
Aspect: SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL IMPACT
S15 The training should enable youth to deal with issues affecting them directly. The pedagogical process should include activities on social action. There is an entire unit of all EPTO’s pedagogical programme dedicated to social action, aiming at:
- identifying opportunities and resources for participants to take action in their own environment (school, association, etc.);
- identifying small or large, individual or group actions for change.
Special emphasis is put on developing a personal action plan as an expression of commitment by young people participating in EPTO activities to find ways to live that are more accepting of other people’s difference. 
S16 The training should enable youth to be multipliers. Participants should have opportunities to practice and improve their facilitation skills. The second training of EPTO’s certification process (“train-the-trainer” training) is dedicated to the practice of facilitation, to develop peer trainers’ skills as facilitators and to prepare them to deal with difficult, or potentially difficult situations.
Through the certification process, peer trainers are required to do local practice, thus initiating or responding to workshop opportunities.
S17 The training should enable youth to be agents of social change. A close follow up of the training and participants should be carried out. Through the certification process, peer trainers are provided with a follow up by their trainers, offering pedagogical advice on their local agendas, sharing tips, advices and ongoing support.
S18 The impact of the training should be assessed. EPTO assesses the impact of the trainings on the participants through some:
- Immediate and sometimes mid-term evaluations;
- Participants' activity reports of local peer training activities;
- Regular reports from Member Organisations, including figures (number of workshops organised locally, number of local participants reached and their feedback, etc.).

 

 

 


 

This project was co-financed by the ERASMUS+ programme of the European Commission  

Co-founded by the Eramsus+ Programme of the European Union

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein 

 


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