Nipissing University prides itself on a personalized learning experience with the tagline – one student at a time.
With an average class size of 24 students, there is certainly a greater opportunity for a more intimate learning experience here than at the average Canadian University.
But 24 students at a time still falls a bit short of the obligation we set out for ourselves in our tagline.
This is where we Student Life Staff come in FTW.
We too hold group tutorials, workshops and training sessions to facilitate learning experiences for more than one student at a time, and I have witnessed the transformational learning that can happen in those group environments.
But 1:1s are where the real magic happens.
When we meet with one student at a time, we can create a safe space for them to share their strengths and needs, to reflect on and explore their thoughts about their learning and the challenges they face. Only by creating a space where they feel comfortable reflecting and sharing are we able to help them identify patterns in their experience and create opportunities for them to apply pre-existing knowledge in new areas.
Without attachment or expertise in a particular subject, we are able to help students step back to see the big picture and how some of the skills and strategies they use to be successful in their areas of strength in & outside of the classroom can be applied to their areas of need. Learning to do this themselves will serve them well in all their lives’ endeavours, not just as undergraduate students.
Without pressure to be experts, we naturally seek out and refer to those who are. We are able to help students see the vast array of resources, supports and learning opportunities available to them on our campus and in our community and help them connect with the ones that will benefit them the most.
Things even get metacognitive with our Peer Educators who not only experience those individualized learning environments directly as students, but they also have the unique opportunity to facilitate those types of learning experiences for their peers. By providing opportunities for them to apply pre-existing knowledge in these efforts, learn new strategies, and reflect on their developing leadership skills, we further enhance their learning as students, as student leaders, and as outstanding members of our community.
As professional staff, we too engage in ongoing learning. The opportunities to learn more about ourselves and supporting others abound through these direct, individualized interactions with students and student leaders. We have venues to reflect on this learning, to share it with our colleagues, to identify opportunities to reach out to other supports and services for information or collaboration, and to apply our learning in the next 1:1, workshop, tutorial or training session.
Our supervisors also learn from this process – how to better encourage and enable us to engage in this learning, reflection, discussion, collaboration and application. They too reflect, share, reach out, and try new things in pursuit of self-improvement, to the betterment of us, of our student leadership, of our students, and to benefit our community as a whole.
One student at a time, we all learn to do better together.