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Peer Assisted Learning & STEM

Lead Institution: Bournemouth University
Collaborating with: STEMNET, University of Bath, University of the West of England

Project Summary

Peer Assisted Learning: In and Beyond the Classroom

PAL in Action

PAL in Action

This project took as its starting point that the support of higher level student mentors for new first year students has significant benefits both academically and socially. It is well-documented that Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) Leaders, or mentors, can provide reassurance and guide students through difficult aspects of their course.

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is defined as "a scheme for learning support and enhancement that enables students to work co-operatively under the guidance of students from the year above" (Capstick 2004). The project looked to research the benefits of PAL for students studying HE STEM programmes (especially those students from ‘Widening Participation’ backgrounds), and in doing so:

  • Investigated different models of PAL, including the development of an on-line approach
  • Researched the benefits for PAL leaders -  e.g. enhanced confidence, acquisition of graduate attributes and enhanced employability 
  • Hosted two seminars for sharing knowledge of existing practice and established a JISCMail Group to encourage discussion amongst practitioners interested in the first year experience for undergraduate students studying STEM.

Aims & Objectives

The aim of the project was to:

Provide an overview of the range of PAL models in SW region STEM programmes and to explore the possible benefits of PAL 'online' with a view to disseminating and encouraging more widespread adoption of PAL within STEM disciplines across the region.

In meeting this aim, the project:

  1. Produced a brief overview of PAL literature in conjunction with a review of models of PAL in the SW region
  2. Hosted two regional seminars taking PAL as their key focus
  3. Produced a literature review of online PAL
  4. Conducted an in-depth focus group interview with PAL leaders in order to discover their perspectives of PAL
  5. Produced a range of briefing papers that: summarised findings from project work; highlighted other relevant projects across the sector and captured core learning from project seminars
  6. Secured additional funding from the National HE STEM Programme to support the development of STEM PAL provision at 4 universities across the country
  7. Informed by a better understanding of PAL and its role in STEM undergraduate programmes, produced PAL guidelines for universities wishing to implement the model  

Staff involved

Christine Keenan
Project lead, Bournemouth University

Penny Mitchell
Project coordinator, Bournemouth University

Heather Campbell

Iryna Withington
University of Bath

Lisa Benjamin
University of Bath

Makis Malliris
University of the West of England