Tracing changes from ideology to practice: Participants' perceptions of the peer support system at the primary school level

Year: 1994

Author: Salter, Kylie, Bowes, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Since the early 1970's, an increasing number of Australian primary schools have chosen to adopt the Peer Support Program as a part of their curriculum. To date, however, the implementation of peer support at the primary school level has remained largely unresearched.

This study aimed to ascertain perceptions of the Peer Support Program amongst participants at its various levels of operation (policy and practice), and to identify further any discrepancies in viewpoints which may exist between these groups. This was done through a case study of practice in a New South Wales primary school over the course of one peer support cycle. Focused interviews were conducted with participants in the program at each of its major levels of operation: the Peer Support Foundation, teachers, senior student leaders and junior participants. The progress of events in peer support sessions for that cycle was observed and documented. Participants were questioned about what they thought the Peer Support Program was for, how it operated and its observed and experienced outcomes.

Perceptions of the Peer Support Program were found to differ markedly between participants at the various levels of operation, and this was reflected in observed practice. Enhanced communication and negotiation between participants at these four major levels is recommended in order to promote a more unified conception of peer support.