Peer assisted learning: a case study into the value to student mentors and mentees.

Judy Smith, Steve May, Linda Burke

Abstract


Peer-assisted learning (PAL) is a system of student support used in a growing number of universities in the UK and worldwide. Practitioners in the School of Surveying at Kingston University have been running such a scheme for first-year undergraduates since 1990 (Author 2003) and have recently undertaken a research project into perceptions of PAL by both attendees and mentors. Case study methodology (Tellis 1997) was the chosen research design for the evaluation in which data from focus groups, interviews, and student questionnaires were collected and analysed.

The results support much of the previous literature related to PAL/SI schemes, but also highlight gaps which this study may begin to fill. Student perceptions appeared to be clustered into two groups: those who used PAL as a means of managing a comprehension problem (reactive) that had arisen and those that used it as a means of preventing problems (proactive). Additionally, PAL mentors also fell into two groups: those who elected to become mentors for other-centred reasons and those who did so for personal gain. The findings show that both PAL attendees and mentors perceived a number of benefits from the scheme and that local lessons were learned that enabled the School of Surveying to better support its undergraduate students.

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