Supporting Peer Educators in First-Year Honors Seminars at Virginia Tech


  • Amber Zoe Smith


First-year seminars help students transition to and get involved in college faster, which can result in higher academic achievement, stronger peer relationships, and deeper self-knowledge: elements of a more successful and satisfying college experience. University Honors at Virginia Tech began offering first-year seminars in the mid-1990s but experienced difficulty maintaining them as our student population grew. This difficulty led us to reform the structure, content, and leadership of the seminars. Now they are co-led by student teaching assistants (STAs) and faculty members. The new seminars emphasize active, collaborative learning and self-reflection. We educate our STAs through pre-semester training and a fall-semester student teaching practicum. This new course model better supports our STAs and encourages students to form good habits early. Although we still have many opportunities for improvement, the new first-year honors seminar and student teaching practicum are fostering reflection, faculty and peer relationships, and campus integration.