RMIT Vietnam’s Peer Assisted Student Support program (PASS) has been rolled out with dramatic success in 2016.
Offering students the opportunity to build leadership skills and be paid to facilitate peer-to-peer learning workshops while studying, PASS is an internationally recognised group study program with multiple benefits, according to RMIT Vietnam Senior Learning Advisor and PASS Project Manager Danny Green.
PASS was launched to complement the existing volunteer-based SLAM (Student Learning Academic Mentor) program, and takes peer-to-peer study to the next level.
Adapted from Australia, the UK and the US, PASS is all about facilitating professional group study, led by high-achieving students who go through a formal application process before being appointed.
Once chosen, PASS leaders go through two days of professional training on how to facilitate what Danny calls “highly student-centric workshops”.
“The aim of the PASS leader is not to teach content, not to explain content,” he says.
“They are there to establish an environment and facilitate an environment which best enables study for that particular subject.”
This requires students to design an hours’ worth of activities that promote group work and best explore the topic of study. Danny is keen to stress though that a PASS leader is not a teacher.
“We push them to not answer questions ever,” he says.
“They are never in the role of ‘expert’ or ‘teacher’; they are always there in the role of group facilitator.
“The idea is that it’s not content they are teaching – it’s study skills.”
One PASS leader said that the sessions opened him up to learning more about subjects he had supposedly “mastered”, while another was embracing the challenge of helping students just like himself.
“Each week is a week of brand new experiences with different types of students and different problems to overcome,” said one of the PASS leaders anonymously.
“It’s very fun.”
The program has clearly been welcomed by the student body.
“We had over 2,000 visits to PASS sessions last semester,” said Danny.
Expanding the program to include more subjects in Saigon and launching the program in Hanoi, Danny says as PASS grows, staff will become increasingly hands-off, and allow the program to become even more student-led.
In terms of its benefits, apart from already having made an impact on academic performance, Danny sees the professional learning and transferable skills gained by leaders as especially impactful.
“PASS gives students demonstrable experience, not just in the classroom, but in a professional environment of facilitating and leading, and in today’s modern workforce, where people rarely work in isolation, this is really important.”
Story: Jon Aspin