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Rebooting or Regressing? Communication Centers and Peer Mentoring in the Introductory Communication Course

Roy Schwartzman, Estefani Marchena


As a response to ongoing student attrition and declining academic performance, a midsize (enrollment = 17,743), minority-serving southeastern research (Carnegie R2) university initiated a “reboot” of high-enrollment general education courses. A key component of the reboot involved embedding undergraduate staff from the university’s oral communication center as peer guides to energize improvements in three areas: performance and retention, engagement, and student satisfaction.

This study examines the empirical evidence of how embedding undergraduate peer guides from a communication center can affect student success in the introductory, performance-based communication course. Measures related to each area targeted for improvement were applied to students (n = 406) in 16 rebooted sections of the introductory course with peer guides and control groups of students (n = 319) in sections without peer guides. Qualitative feedback on the peer guide experience was obtained from focus groups with peer guides and instructors who participated in the reboot.

No significant difference was found between students in the peer guide sections versus the control group in overall midterm or final grades, perceived quality of instruction, or student activity on the Canvas learning management system. Students in the reboot sections lagged behind their control group cohorts in reducing their communication apprehension. The decidedly mixed outcomes suggest the need for different types of involvement than the traditional consultative role that communication center tutors usually play.


Communication Center; Peer Mentoring; Student Retention; Student Success; Tutoring

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Communication Center Journal