Peer learning schemes at the University of Bath are student-led, discipline-owned and centrally coordinated through the Students’ Union. The success of these programmes relies both on enthusiastic volunteers and an intensive training package that fully prepares students for their role. Since adopting a centralised model of peer support at the University, the number of students involved has increased with now over 950 students volunteering. Whilst the growth in numbers shows institutional buy-in to peer learning, there is now greater pressure on staff supporting such schemes, for example training volunteers.
Following a successful bid through the Teaching Development Fund (TDF), secured in collaboration with the Academic Skills Centre, the SU was able to review its existing training provision. An online element was added to the peer mentor training and a cross-institutional training team was set up to support the face-to-face provision. Staff from all areas within the University were invited to apply to be trainers and the project resulted in the recruitment of seven trainers (see appendix 1).
Not only were the benefits of this training team seen by the Peer Support Team, but the trainers themselves also benefited in many ways. They were able to broaden their own work experience, develop key transferable skills, gain a better understanding of the student experience and use this experience towards professional recognition.
Mr Oliver Schofield (Students’ Union): firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Miranda Armstrong (Skills Centre)
Ms Emily King (Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology)
Mrs Louise Lynes (Faculty of Engineering and Design)
Dr Marjorie Gibbon (Department of Biology and Biochemistry)
Ms Hannah South (Library)
Dr Cheryl Voake-Jones (MASH)
Dr Gerta Cami-Kobeci (Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology)
Mr Kevin Renfrew (Skills Centre)
Aims & Rationale
The University’s Peer Mentoring and Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) schemes are core components of the Education Strategy 2013-16 which aim to provide a supportive learning environment by encouraging independent learning and collaboration amongst peers. In a three-year period, increased demand for Peer Support has resulted in over 800 Peer Mentors supporting first year students with University transition and 70 PAL Leaders supporting students on academic units in 15 subjects. This increase has resulted in greater pressure on staff supporting these schemes and has led to the need for a different and sustainable approach to the training of Peer Mentors and PAL Leaders.
Competitor analysis revealed that other institutions, such as the Universities of Bournemouth and Manchester, were successfully using online software to assist training and had adopted collaborative approaches towards peer support training, resulting in the formation of training teams. It appeared that opportunities to make better use of e-learning and to engage staff and students as active training partners were being missed at the University of Bath
It was hoped that the proposed model of PAL leader training, in particular the introduction of a training team, would bring students and staff together through the shared agenda of training, thereby facilitating a meaningful exchange of experience, skills and varied perspectives, resulting in a deepening understanding of the issues on both sides. In addition, we hoped that the project would provide professional development opportunities for University staff interested in enhancing their own training skills and engaging in different ways with the student community.
With this in mind, the project resulted in two main objectives:
- To review existing training materials and develop face-to-face and online training resources for PAL Leaders and Peer Mentors.
- To establish a sustainable cross-institutional team of trainers who would support the delivery of training.
- Reviewed existing Peer Mentor training and developed additional online resource;
- Held a 1-day training and information event to introduce University staff to PAL, delivered by Marcia Ody, Certified National PASS/PAL Trainer, University of Manchester;
- Developed and delivered a 1-day briefing session for PAL trainers , delivered by Oliver Schofield, Peer Support Coordinator, University of Bath Students’ Union;
- Formed a team of PAL trainers to deliver the initial 2-day PAL Leader training;
- PAL Training team supported additional support activities throughout the year;
- Project has enabled promotion of other areas of work to the peer support team and to students.