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PAL Explained

"PAL fosters cross-year support between students on the same course. It is run for students and by students to provide an informal, yet structured opportunity for new students to learn from those who have been there before them."

Peer Assisted Learning

PAL is Peer Assisted Learning. The idea behind PAL is that of experienced students, those who have "been there, done it and got the t-shirt" working with new, first year students to help them get their heads around life at the university, and to understand what being a University of Bedfordshire student is really like.

Many students coming to university can find the transition from home/school/college daunting or difficult and we want to make this as smooth as possible to ensure new students have a good experience.

The best people to do this are those who have been there - and that means students. Staff are often not the best people, particularly in the early days of life at university, to give the advice and answers to problems that new students often have.

The key to PAL is empathy and informality, and students who know the ropes are often better placed to give the insider knowledge about life at University of Bedfordshire than anyone else.

More than 85% of UK universities run some kind of peer to peer scheme, so the idea is not new, and it is well established both in the UK and overseas. The PAL scheme at University of Bedfordshire is based upon 2nd/3rd year students (who we call PAL Leaders) working in pairs or trios, to facilitate friendly, weekly PAL sessions with first year students.

Sessions at the start are usually very much focused on settling in and getting orientated around the campus, whilst later sessions are more linked to things that first year students have covered in lectures or workshops.

PAL Leaders get regular support from a tutor (who we call Academic Course Contacts or ACCs) to guide and advise on possible PAL activities and topics to discuss. PAL Leaders also get comprehensive training support throughout the year, as well as university certificates to evidence to employers the skills they've developed.

Unlike PAL at other UK universities, our PAL is about 2nd/3rd year students (PAL Leaders) facilitating, not teaching. Our PAL Leaders do not teach. Our PAL Leaders help first year students to help themselves, give support and advice, and signpost to places to get help. Our PAL Leaders are passing on knowledge and information that they know already. Most importantly, they set the climate for discussions within a relaxed and informal student to student atmosphere.

PAL is not a place for weak or struggling students. PAL is a place where all students can dictate the content of a session, can steer sessions towards topics that they really want to cover, and participate in a relaxed, safe environment away from tutors and lecturers.

PAL is:

  • Timetabled session starting in the first week of term
  • 1 hour a week facilitated by pairs or trios of PAL Leaders
  • PAL runs in terms 1 & 2
  • Nominally linked to a 1st year core unit
  • 1st year students and PAL Leaders can propose session content and direction
  • PAL is supportive, informal and fun

PAL is intended to help new first year students:

  • Adjust quickly to university life
  • Make friends and connections
  • Create an informal learning community for student scholars
  • Acquire a clear view of course direction and expectations
  • Improve their study skills/adjust their study habits to meet the requirements of higher education
  • Enhance their understanding of the subject matter of their course through collaborative group discussion
  • Prepare better for assessed work and exams

PAL doesn't just help students, it helps lecturers too by:

  • Minimising the number of 'minor' enquiries from first year students
  • Increasing student support and a sense of inclusion
  • Helping students be better prepared for classes
  • Helping students keep up with course material
  • Helping create more independent learners
  • Training students in the basics of group work
  • Obtaining vital feedback on how course content is being received by Level 4 students
  • Providing committed students who can help promote the university and meet with internal or external reviewers
Bedfordshire University

PAL Explained