An Insider View: Understanding Volunteers’ Experiences Within a Peer-to-Peer Language Learning Program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
Keywords:Volunteering, Community-based education, Peer-to-peer learning, Adult learners, English as an additional language, TESOL
Many community-based English language learning programs rely on volunteers to lead classes. While some of these volunteers have some teacher training, the majority are not professional educators. The question of how non-professionals understand what constitutes facilitation of language learning in an adult education context remains underexplored. This paper presents the findings of a small-scale study conducted within a community-based language learning program with four volunteer facilitators. Volunteer facilitators were interviewed on a range of topics related to their role in the program, peer-to-peer interaction, and the impacts of volunteering in their lives. An analysis of facilitator interviews, with reference to program’s guiding educational principles, reveals the following positive factors related to the program: the informal nature of the community, the flexible design of the program, peer-to-peer interaction, and support from program staff. However, the findings also highlight that facilitators’ perspectives and practices varied significantly due to their different lived experiences, motives for volunteering, and linguistic background. This study highlights promising practices, which could serve to design sustainable community-based English language learning programs for adults.
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