Using IT Support to improve the quality of Peer Assisted Learning
Start date: 31 March 2010
Peer assisted learning (PAL) is one way to increase the empowerment of students through their learning practices and, hence, enhance their learning journey. PAL involves students mentoring groups of academically less experienced students; develops the quality and diversity of student learning, and enables students to become active partners in their learning experience. PAL supports student transition into higher education and there is evidence that it can aid retention in the early weeks of degree study. Retention is becoming a key issue for universities and one of the key performance indicators (KPIs) of quality education under the strategy for higher education set out by the current government.
The PAL³ project is funded by Learn Higher and is an on going project investigating the use of IT support to improve the quality of Peer Assisted Learning. The project has set up a learning environment for students, and a knowledge base for PAL student mentors and PAL and other academic staff.
This paper reports on initial findings from the project which can be divided into two strands. Firstly, the compilation of a staff knowledge base has highlighted the fact that PAL is known by different names and has different meanings in different places. We provide an initial classification. Secondly, the PAL student environment, which has been implemented and used by the student cohort and their PAL student mentors, has highlighted issues that were not envisaged at the beginning of the study and this has implications for future work.