A formative and summative evaluation of a peer counselling training programme at a college of education.
Keller, Jenny R.
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A formative and summative evaluation of a peer counselling training programme at a college of education. The study investigates the appropriateness and feasibility of implementing a peer counselling support structure for students at an under-resourced college of education in a rural area. Existing peer counselling training programmes were explored in order to identify appropriate principles for implementation at the particular college. The exploration focused on six dimensions: peer counsellor roles and functions, - selection, -training, - support and - supervision, ethical and cultural considerations and programme evaluations. The investigation covered three phases: a survey and needs analysis, assessment of the appropriateness for, and impact of the training programme, on the 23 volunteers and an assessment of the service use and performance of these peer counsellors. Semi-structured questionnaires were used to evaluate all three phases. Qualitative analysis of the data indicated that students perceived peer counselling as a physically, socially and emotionally accessible support structure. Peer counsellors were seen to be a functional support alternative to the academic lecturers available for counselling, specifically in providing assistance with interpersonal dilemmas and in areas of mutual concern. Peer counsellor trainees assessed the training content and procedures as adequate, functional, applicable to the particular context and instrumental to certain personal developmental gains. The data were used to inform the implementation and management of future peer counselling training programmes at the college and to indicate inconclusive areas for future research. The study shows that peer counselling is a potentially effective, functional and complementary strategy to provide pastoral care at under-resourced institutions, provided that the peer counselling programme is customized for the contextual, challenges, needs and concerns of the particular institution.