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Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)

The PAL scheme has operated at Bournemouth University since 2001. Originally we obtained funding of £150,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) between 2001-2004 under Phase 3 of the Fund for Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL3).

The aims of the Peer Assisted Learning Project were to promote awareness, enhance understanding, and encourage effective implementation of Peer Assisted Learning as a scheme which fosters cross year support for students. Furthermore, we aimed to produce materials that would support a workable, systematic, high quality, transferable and sustainable scheme.

When we started PAL we drew upon many of the principles and ideas associated with the North American Supplemental Instruction (SI) Model that had originally been developed at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) in the 1970's to combat the problem of high drop-out rates in certain courses. UMKC today supports The International Center for Supplemental Instruction.

Similarities between SI and PAL:

  • Both schemes are run by students for students, and student empowerment is an essential part of this process
  • Both schemes operate regularly scheduled PAL or SI sessions that appear in students timetables
  • Learning is interdependent. Active learning is encouraged and participatory, collaborative group learning is facilitated by a trained, but non-subject expert, student leader
  • Study skills are integrated into both PAL and SI in the sense that the subject content of a course or programme, 'what-to-learn', is fully integrated into sharing advice on 'how-to-learn-it'
  • Both operate in a way that ensures they are supplemental to lectures and other teaching sessions the students should already have attended.

Differences between SI and PAL:

  • In the North American model, the main purpose of the SI model is to target high risk, historically difficult courses. At BU, PAL enhances learning across all faculties and programmes rather than focussing on "difficult" courses
  • PAL at BU places an additional emphasis is placed upon increasing the level of social integration within the student's normal seminar group, and in improving the first year students' experience of university life
  • Peer Support and PAL in the UK appear to have many variants and have seen more organic growth, for example, the National Centre for PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) based at the University of Manchester
  • SI Leaders are expected to attend all lectures and take notes for their course but this is not normally a practical option for the UK.

Publications and evaluations

During the years in which we have been operating PAL, we have generated several internal publications and links to some of these are included below:

Capstick, S., Fleming, H., and Hurne, J. (2004 ) Implementing Peer Assisted Learning in Higher Education: The experience of a new university and a model for the achievement of a mainstream programme (PDF)

Capstick, S. and Fleming, H. (2004) The Learning Environment of Peer Assisted Learning (PDF)

Capstick, S. (2004) Benefits and Shortcomings of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) in Higher Education: an appraisal by students (PDF)

Every year we evaluate our PAL scheme and below are the reports: