14 November 2014

Why I love being a Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) Facilitator

Peer Assisted Studies Sessions (PASS) is a series of weekly one hour facilitator-led, student-driven learning sessions, available across most first-year business school units. PASS provides a complementary learning experience to lectures and tutorials, where students benefit from the diverse knowledge and experiences of their peers, with the focus being on collaborative groupwork to inspire deep learning.

I've been a facilitator for 3 years now in the undergraduate capstone units of Understanding Business and the Business Environment. I still love preparing and running my sessions every week and miss them during the summer break. Here's why:

It started from my experiences as a student
Following the lecture bashing blitz in my first week of university, I decided to give PASS a try. After my first session, I was instantly hooked and have attended sessions in every available unit ever since. My first session was run by Shirley Anne-Hu in Business Statistics, and it's a testament to her skill as a facilitator that I can still remember the activities we did on representing data through histograms and the measures of central tendency. Shirley was patient, welcoming and warm; and facilitated my group's learning every step of the way. It was such a natural experience that we didn't even realise that she never gave an outright answer, allowing us to get it right through consensus in a reversal of what we had been used to in high school.

The recruitment process was very thorough
When it was time for me to apply to become a PASS facilitator, I jumped at the chance! The recruitment process remains the most comprehensive I've ever been through (and will likely go through), and the results of this are plain to see in the quality of the program, which consistently nets a near 100% satisfaction rating from students, as well as awards from the PASS National Forum. Having submitted a 1,000 word application, we then had a panel interview, reference checking and 3 days of training before we received the good news. This was great as it showed us that our amazing coordinator Jessica Morr and her team were dedicated to finding the right people for the role, and then training them to be the best facilitators that they could be.

You join an incredible team
The PASS facilitators are made up of a great group of students who either come first in their units, are the presidents of campus clubs & societies, winners of international case competitions, students with work experience in leading banks, corporates and law firms, and/or are tireless volunteers who help out in their communities. Yet despite everything that they've accomplished, they still remain wonderfully down-to-earth and value all student contributions, and even end up learning as much as their students did at the end of their sessions.

The 'Ahah' moment from students
Yet the most rewarding part of being a facilitator is helping students fill in the missing gaps between their knowledge and a deep understanding of the course content and skills. I've had students who are new to university come into my sessions confused about course concepts. This is where the beauty of PASS as a voluntary and complementary addition to lectures and tutorials truly shines, and it's very rewarding to see students reach the answers in a collaborative effort and leave with new friends and an increased confidence in their own abilities.

Want to join?
If you'd like to be a student participant, PASS is available in most introductory undergraduate and postgraduate units of study. Go to PASS I want to register to see if your units are included. Most sessions are usually booked out in the first week of semester, so get in quick!

If you'd like to become a facilitator, applications open around the middle of semester 2 each year. Best of luck!

James Fan
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

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