Experiential learning: perspectives from undergraduate peer-advisors pursuing careers in higher education
The impact of peer-leadership programs on undergraduate students has been studied since the inception of higher education. Programs such as peer-mentoring, peer-counseling, and peer-advising are regularly used within the college environment as there are proven benefits to both student leaders and mentees. However, there is limited content on students who plan to pursue higher education careers and experiential programs that prepare them for the field. Thus, this action research study is designed to examine the influence of a peer-advising program on participants who have identified their interest in various careers in the college setting. Employing a mixed-method approach to inquiry, the study connects Kolb’s (2005) Experiential Learning theory, and Chickering’s (1964) Vectors of Student Development to a hands-on learning experience designed to improve participants’ competency and clarity in their potential career choice. This study was conducted with the purpose of illustrating the role of experiential learning opportunities in higher education, particularly with a unique focus on undergraduate students desiring careers in the higher education field.
Four senior students were positioned as peer-advisors assisting fellow students with academic related matters over one semester as a means of gaining competency and clarity in their pathway toward working in higher education. The results of the study indicate that peer-advising participants attributed program participation to increased career competency and clarity. There were also 64 student-advisee participants who found the program to be beneficial to their overall advising needs, as well as one professional advisor who found the program to be effective in decreasing her advising load during the study. The results of this study align with outcomes of pinnacle research and scholarship on experiential learning, and support the growing acknowledgment of the importance of applied learning experiences in higher education.