The Cambridge Dictionary defines a role model as “a person who someone admires and whose behaviour they try to copy”. Research clearly shows that ‘near peer models’ are enormously helpful in language learning. “Near peer role models (NPRMs) are people who might be “near” to us in several ways: age, ethnicity, gender, interests, past or present experiences, and also in proximity and in frequency of social contact. Exposure to NPRMs can result in immediate benefits relating to motivation and excitement, risk taking and the amount of English used. (Murphey & Arao, 2001: 1). Bandura’s (1977, 1986) social learning theory holds at its centre that learning takes place in a social context.
The British Buddies system provides a partner the guest can identify with, someone he wants to talk to and an environment in which it is ok to make mistakes. The guest needs to feel that he is safe, his buddy will understand him and help him to understand. The buddy is the same gender as the guest and relatively close in age. Buddies are language role models, guides and friends. They focus entirely on one guest and care about his success. The guest’s achievements are a reflection of his work, so they are a team. For many guests, it is like having a big brother or sister who really takes time for them. They spend all day together, doing things they both enjoy. Having an activity and a common interest takes the pressure off and also gives them something to talk about.
All buddies are assessed for their ability to empathise and encourage. If successful in the assessment, they are accepted onto the training programme which covers local knowledge, first aid, safeguarding, language learning theory and positive psychology. A large section of the training covers giving constructive feedback on language without interrupting the communication flow. Of course, we complete official background checks. Above all, we find buddies who are genuinely nice people who enjoying showing students around and watching them grow and learn.
Buddy training involves a strategy to avoid the use of smart phones during the day. The buddy is never allowed to use his whilst in the presence of the guest and he is trained to encourage the guest to leave his device at home or in his pocket. Positive role modelling contributes significantly to this surprisingly effective element. Forbidding phones wouldn’t work, leading by positive example does.
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We’d be happy to discuss any questions you may have or if you need any further information.