Resident assistant peer training : perceptions surrounding the use and effectiveness of experienced student leaders as trainers at one small private catholic university
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This qualitative case study of one small private Catholic university in the northeast examines the perceptions of experienced (i.e. second to third year staff) and inexperienced (i.e. newly hired staff) student resident assistants. Specifically, this study focuses on the observations and insights of experienced and inexperienced staff as it relates to peer presented training and the overall training curriculum. The university employees a traditional training timeline with large-scale trainings occurring immediately prior to the opening of fall and spring semesters and smaller onehour trainings occurring throughout each semester. The resident assistant staff likewise follows a common model employing a number of new, first year resident assistants as well as a smaller number of second and third year resident assistants called senior residents assistants (the word "senior" implies the student staff member has at least one year of experience; it does not reference the student's academic year). The student to resident assistant ratio is a comfortable 30:1 with students living in traditional and suite style residence halls as well as apartments for upper-division students and graduates. Overall, the residential program studied is very similar to any number of other residential programs across the country. The one possible exception is the use of experienced student staff (senior resident assistants) to train inexperienced student staff (resident assistants). While this training model is not unique to the university of study, there are data to determine how common this model is, nor has there been any research related to the student staff perceptions of the effectiveness of such a model. The results of this qualitative case study reveal the training impressions of nine resident and senior resident assistants with the aim of understanding how they experienced training, their thoughts related to the use of peer presented trainers, and how they saw peer presented trainers influencing the overall staff experience. Three themes emerged: the use of experienced student staff as teachers, mentors, and supervisors. In this study I conclude the use of experienced student staff as teachers and mentors is both appropriate in this setting and desired by both experienced and inexperienced staff. However, the use of the experienced student staff position as supervisors is not viewed as appropriate by either experienced or inexperienced student staff and is cautioned against.