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Leeds Trinity students showcase best practice for peer learning and mentoring

Posted on 19 January 2017

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Two students from Leeds Trinity University will feature in a new compendium to aid student-to-student study support, collated by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in partnership with The Cathedrals Group.

Antonia Miles and Josh Poklad are part of the joint project, which identified best practice in student-centred peer learning and mentoring among Cathedrals Group faith-based universities and colleges. It will result 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.

Antonia, who graduated with a First class degree in History and is now undertaking a postgraduate course in Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University, works closely with her mentor, Josh.

She said: "The peer learning project helped me gain in confidence and move further up the grade banding in my final year. 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."

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."

Representatives from more than 12 Cathedrals Group institutions, including Leeds Trinity University, gathered at the HEA's York conference rooms this week to discuss case study outcomes and share approaches.

Conference delegates heard best practice presentations from the University of Cumbria, University of Winchester and University of Chester, as well as gaining direct feedback from student participation at Leeds Trinity University.  

Professor Margaret A House, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University and Chairperson of the Cathedrals Group, said:

"Peer learning and mentoring puts students at the 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."

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, Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive at HEA, 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 hugh.mannerings@heacademy.ac.uk