Re-thinking peer assisted learning for postgraduate research students

Vos, Jolien and Sisson, Kelly (2015) Re-thinking peer assisted learning for postgraduate research students. In: RAISE Conference, 10-11 Sept 2015, Nottingham.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


The nature of research education is very specific and distinct to that of taught degrees and has been criticised for being individualistic and focused on supervision practice. As a result research students commonly report feelings of isolation, lack of peer support and disconnect from their school or department. Typical research degrees, especially PhD’s, have no taught content and the course of study as well as the progress rates differ for each student which makes the application of tradition peer assisted learning (PAL) modes problematic. They do however have process-related commonalities, types of problems that are peculiar to the PhD process which present opportunities for PAL.

A Peer assisted learning support scheme for PhD students (PALs for PhDs), in which communities of postgraduate research students and postdoctoral members of staff are built through action learning sets (ALS), was designed by a PhD student and a member of staff. PALs for PhDs is a novel conceptual framework for research education that is situated between supervision and cohort based models. This concept challenges the notion of ‘peers’ by narrowing the perceived gap between postgraduate research students and postdoctoral members of staff.

Evaluation of a pilot study showed that PALs for PhDs helps students to make sense of their experience and construct their identities as research students. Peer support filled a gap relating to social and emotional support for the participants, created a sense of belonging motivated them to pro-actively address the challenges that they were facing. As a result of the successful pilot, the scheme is now being scaled up across the University. The aim of this presentation is to provide an overview of our adaptations of a traditional peer learning model to PhD students and explore the challenges associated with engaging and supporting this student group.

Keywords:Postgraduate Research Students, Student Engagement, PhD, action learning, Peer Assisted Learning
Subjects:X Education > X210 Research skills
L Social studies > L900 Others in Social studies
X Education > X390 Academic studies in Education not elsewhere classified
N Business and Administrative studies > N613 Training Methods
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Health & Social Care
Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
ID Code:18672
Deposited On:16 Sep 2015 15:01

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