Studies of peer-led adolescent health education establish effectiveness or acceptability, exploring the phenomenon largely through an experimental lens. Central to this perspective is a focus on outcomes and with this, the premise that to be successful an initiative must significantly change the knowledge, attitudes or behaviour of the target population. This does not guarantee successful adoption or implementation by practitioners however.Peer education projects have highly variable success, with little understanding as to why some projects fail whilst others are sustained. Coupled with uncertainty regarding funding for community-based education projects, there is a need to explore how peer education works in practice.A case study of a peer education initiative in the Shetland Islands was conducted to investigate how peer education as a construct is operationalised at the micro-level of the practising organisation, and how features at the macro-level of the community may support project sustainability.A number of organisational practices were identified as facilitating participatory practice and supporting community-based peer education efforts, such as the creation of equal relationships between staff and volunteers, prioritisation of youth voice, networks of group support and the creation of safe spaces to discuss community issues. Combining perspectives from Education and Health and drawing on theories of participatory education and empowerment, study findings assist in the production of a framework conceptualising the process by which peer education projects are empowered and in turn, empower their participants and the communities in which they are based.
Emma Sian Dobson, University of Durham, UK
Stream: Learning Experiences, Student Learning & Learner Diversity
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