PALS: Peer Assisted Learning Scheme


The PAL programme was run very successfully as a largely internal Departmental process for many years, until 2011. The programme worked well because there was a very direct connection between the responsible academic and the PAL leaders. However, new College and Departmental initiatives impacted on the programme; a message was therefore sent to everyone registered on Moodle for PHAS1102 (something like 160 students, including all Physics & Astronomy first-years):

"I want to invite your views on the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme. Until a couple of years ago, the PAL scheme was a largely Departmental initiative, whose main function in practice was to have volunteers from the second- and third-year cohorts help more junior students with problem sheets. Then College introduced the Mentoring scheme, to which the PAL scheme was adapted as a sort of post-mentoring add-on. And this year, the Department introduced a substantial programme of taught problem classes.

My entirely subjective impression is that the combination of the mentoring scheme and taught problem classes has reduced the effective role of the PAL scheme to the point where it's no longer clear to me that it serves a useful purpose. Hence this email: was the PAL scheme useful to YOU this year?"

Of only eight respondents, seven replied "no". I think this speaks for itself, especially since the sample of respondents is likely to be biassed towards those who DID consider the PAL scheme useful.

Consequently, the PAL scheme was suspended: its implementation had been hindered both by the difficulty of direct Departmental oversight and by the lack of targetted training provided by the Student Centre, both of which were consequences of the introduction of the Mentor Scheme; and much of the academic function has been superseded by Problem-Solving classes.

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a student-to-student support scheme for both academic and personal development. Mentors are trained to facilitate the learning of students on the same course in the following year. These trained student 'PAL Leaders' meet regularly with their groups, normally of students in the year below, to help them improve their understanding of the subject matter of their course and develop their study and learning strategies. Mentors also help first-year students to integrate into their department during the first few challenging months of being at university.

The character of PAL sessions is one of co-operative and collaborative learning. PAL Leaders are not there to teach (and the students attending should not expect them to); they are there to encourage discussion amongst the group, and to enhance comprehension of lectures already attended, not to impart any new knowledge.


2009/10 CALENDAR, TERM 2: 13:00–14:00
Mentors seem largely to be making their own arrangements to meet with their groups, but to facilitate meetings, Room G01 in the Kathleen Lonsdale Building is available every Friday, 12:00-14:00

Please contact Ian Howarth if you have any problems or queries.

2009/10 CALENDAR, TERM 1: 13:00–14:00
Thursday Mentor Groups

Friday Mentor Groups
Date Location
Nov 5
Nov 6
Nov 12
Nov 13
Nov 19
Nov 20
Nov 26
Nov 27
Dec 3
Dec 4
Dec 10
Dec 11
Dec 17
Dec 18
THURSDAY MENTORS:  Ali Ahmed, Alex Crallan, Connie Ip, Alma I Marinoiu, Arnold Mathijssen, Franciscus Prins.

FRIDAY MENTORS:   Nilesh Agnihotri, Romano Bianca, Richelle De Bokx, Jiajun Chen, Sahra Haji, Malini Patel, Gurpal Sagoo, Charmaine Wijeyasinghe.

MENTORS WITH 'PRIVATE' ARRANGEMENTS:   William Dunn, Nathan Johnson, Sam Thomas, Emma Wroe.
Rooms E1 and E7 are on the ground floor of the main Physics building

In term 1 of the 2009/10 session, PAL sessions are scheduled for Thursdays & Fridays, 13:00-14:00. (PAL mentors are expected to be present not later than 13:10, but may leave after 13:30 if they have no remaining 'customers'.)