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Reflections as near-peer facilitators of an inquiry project for undergraduate anatomy: Successes and challenges from a term of trial-and-error

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Abstract

Near-peer facilitators (senior students serving as facilitators to their more junior peers) bring a unique student-based perspective to teaching. With fewer years of teaching experience however, students who become involved in a facilitator role typically develop related skills quickly through a process of trial-and-error within the classroom. The aim of this paper is to report on the authors' own experiences and reflections as student near-peer facilitators for an inquiry-based project in an undergraduate anatomy course. Three areas of the facilitator experience are explored: (1) offering adequate guidance as facilitators of inquiry, (2) motivating students to engage in the inquiry process, and (3) fostering creativity in learning. A practical framework for providing guidance to students is discussed which offers facilitators a scaffold for asking questions and assisting students through the inquiry process. Considerations for stimulating intrinsic motivations toward inquiry learning are made, paying attention to ways in which facilitators might influence feelings of motivation towards learning. Also, the role of creativity in inquiry learning is explored by highlighting the actions facilitators can take to foster a creative learning environment. Finally, recommendations are made for the development of formalized training programs that aid near-peer facilitators in the acquisition of facilitation skills before entering into a process of trial-and-error within the classroom. Anat Sci Educ. 7: 64–70. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.

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