Cathedrals Group spotlight on best practice Peer Learning sees HEA collate new case study compendium to aid student-to-student study support

Thursday, 19 January, 2017

A joint project to identify best practice in student-centred Peer Learning and Mentoring among Cathedrals Group faith-based universities and colleges has resulted in the creation of a series of case studies detailing positive impacts on a range of factors including student retention, well-being, academic performance and confidence.

Representatives from more than 12 Cathedrals Group institutions, including Mission Group Chair and Leeds Trinity University Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret House, gathered at the Higher Education Academy’s York conference rooms this week to discuss case study outcomes and share approaches.

“Peer Learning and Mentoring puts students front and centre in supporting every aspect of the university experience of fellow students and we have been delighted to work with the HEA in identifying the distinct nature of Peer Learning contributions to learning and teaching approaches across the Cathedrals Group,” said Professor House.

Conference delegates heard best practice presentations from a range of Peer Learning and Mentoring leads at Cathedrals Group institutions, including the University of Cumbria, Leeds Trinity University, the University of Winchester and the University of Chester, as well as gaining direct feedback from student Peer Learning participant Antonia Miles and her Postgraduate mentor at Leeds Trinity, Josh Poklad.

“The Peer Learning project helped me gain in confidence and move further up the grade banding in my final year,” said Antonia, who graduated with a First in History. She now continues to take advantage of Peer Learning support while undertaking a postgraduate course in Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity where she is working as a graduate trainee. 

“Many students appreciate guidance, for instance in preparing content and presentations, from another graduate or postgraduate they know has recently gone through the same challenges – it’s helpful in a job-related context not just in academic work,” she added.

Josh, Antonia’s Peer Learning support, began mentoring last year and explained: ”The scheme I am involved in is an opt-in for undergraduates. They can drop in anytime they need and it helps them manage both their university experience and their expectations. For me as mentor, it’s been a massive boost to my confidence as an educator rather than a student.”

Dr Julie Baldry Currens, who led HEA facilitation of the project, said that while Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) and Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) were common in many UK universities, the vast majority of Cathedrals Group Peer Learning and Mentoring programmes were distinct in the kind of practical assistance offered – particularly in relation to pastoral support for students whose close family may not have their own experience of university life.

Closing the conference, Higher Education Academy CEO Professor Stephanie Marshall said that successful Peer Learning and Mentoring programmes deserved consideration for inclusion in institutional TEF submission narratives.

“The increase in student confidence is powerful and Cathedrals Group now have a booklet of studies to prove it,” said Professor Marshall.

  • The HEA and Cathedrals Group intend to publish the project’s compendium of case studies in late spring for use by both Group institutions and other interested colleges and universities. The case studies will be accompanied by a Peer Group Learning toolkit for use in establishing or enhancing peer-based undergraduate and postgraduate support. If your institution is interested in accessing the resources, please contact the HEA Academic Lead for Retention and Success

PICTURED BELOW: HEA Chief Exectutive Professor Stephanie Marshall with Cathedrals Group Chair and Leeds Trinity University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret House.