Students who take part in peer-led learning sessions experience reduced anxiety associated with transition into higher education. They also have a greater sense of belonging and improved academic confidence, research published today by the HEA shows.
For students who undertake the role of 'peer leader', benefits include the acquisition of higher level personal and professional skills. Their own subject learning is deepened too, inter-cultural awareness is enhanced and employability prospects are greater.
Reported benefits for institutions suggest improvements may be found in progression and retention of students.
Mapping student-led peer learning in the UK by Chris Keenan, Bournemouth University, which will be launched today at HEA event Ways of knowing, ways of learning: innovation in pedagogy for graduate success, used a survey to gather information about peer-led learning. The research identifies a range of social and academic benefits for students and higher education institutions.
The practice of more experienced students being trained to guide and facilitate the learning of less experienced students in an organised and supported way is gaining momentum as a global phenomenon, the report says. Peer-learning schemes now exist on all continents and holds relevance for students of all cultures. As some UK schemes have been running since the early 1990s, this is an opportune moment to reflect on progress and identify opportunities for future developments.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, HEA, said:
“Peer learning has had proven success in schools for several decades as well as in higher education institutions in the UK and all over the world. This report outlines the many reasons why peer-led learning is an important element in supporting students in higher education with their learning.
“This work represents a significant step in the HEA’s work to engage students as partners in learning, and we will be developing it further with the sector. We are particularly proud to have undertaken this work at a time when realisation of the gains is gathering momentum in the US, Scandinavia, South Africa, Canada and Australasia. We will continue to offer leadership and to support institutions as they embed and evaluate these dynamic approaches to learning.”
The report also includes case studies from a range of UK higher education institutions.
Notes to editors:
1. The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is the national body for learning and teaching in higher education. We work with universities and other higher education providers to bring about change in learning and teaching. We do this to improve the experience that students have while they are studying, and to support and develop those who teach them.
2. The Mapping peer-led academic learning UK survey was the instrument for primary data gathering for the research. It was designed and distributed by the report author in partnership with the HEA)in 2014 via various networks including HEA institutional contacts, the Learning Development in Higher Education Network (LDHEN) and Staff Education Development Association (SEDA) JISCmail groups and the UK National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions. The survey was launched on 4 April 2014 and closed after the HEA Annual Conference on 3 July 2014.