Students working together in a PAL session

What is PAL?

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a student-to-student support scheme aimed to support students with their transition to University and contribute to the wider student experience.

PAL: what is it?

Peer Assisted Learning  (PAL) is support for students, by students, and normally takes the form of regular, coordinated group study sessions or workshops.

Starting university is exciting but can also be daunting. Learning alongside other students on your course, however, can give you a greater opportunity to discuss ideas, broaden your knowledge, gain confidence, make friends and adjust to university life more quickly.

How will it benefit me?

If you are a Foundation, Year 1 or top-up student, and your course has PAL, your sessions are intended to help you:

  • increase your understanding of what is expected of you as a UWE Bristol student
  • settle in more quickly to university life
  • connect more with your course and other students
  • feel part of a learning community
  • boost your learning strategies, and adjust your study habits to meet the requirements of university study
  • gain a deeper understanding of course content and expectations
  • increase your academic performance.

Your group will be small enough to work together, sharing ideas, problem solving, completing tasks and checking understanding. Sessions at the start of the year are usually focused on settling in, getting orientated to the campus and time management. However, the later sessions are more linked to content that you have covered in lectures, seminars or workshops. You can also receive support and advice on exam techniques, assignment/project preparation, referencing, presentation skills and how to act on lecturer feedback.

Who runs the PAL sessions?

Your PAL leader will run your PAL session. Your PAL leader:

  • is normally from the academic year above in the same discipline so has been where you are now
  • has received training, and is in regular contact with the PAL Office and academics in your programme to ensure that PAL sessions are relevant and well-structured
  • will create opportunities for you to ask questions about course material and university life, explore ideas and concepts in more depth and develop your study skills in a relaxed and friendly environment
  • will share their experiences, provide support and advice, and signpost you to other services at the University where you can get help
  • will not teach you, check your work or provide all the answers.

You may want to become a PAL leader in the future - attending PAL will give you a good idea about what the role entails.

How do I get the most out of my PAL sessions?

  • Use your first session to engage with your PAL Leader.
  • Let your PAL leader know in advance of each session the topics you would like to explore with your peers. Remember: PAL is a place where all students can propose the content of a session and can steer sessions towards topics that they really want to cover away from tutors and lecturers.
  • Actively participate in the group discussions.
  • Ask your PAL leader about learning strategies.
  • Be willing to share your ideas, ask those 'silly' questions and reflect on your own learning.
  • PAL is about gaining a deeper understanding of the subject matter of your course and creating informal learning communities. So even if you aren't struggling, attend your PAL sessions - you'll get something out of each session.
  • Give your PAL leader constructive feedback.
  • Do not expect to be taught. PAL leaders are facilitators and mentors, not teachers or content experts. They will help you to help yourself.
  • Try to attend sessions regularly, but don't worry if you can't. You can go along again at any point during the academic year.

What next?

What the students say

  • "As a first year, it has really benefitted me as I have been able to get a better understanding of what is expected of me academically."
  • "It takes away the formality of university, making it less daunting."
  • "You can ask any questions without any pressure."
  • "Great way to have student-to-student discussions and to find out what is expected from a new student that you wouldn't necessarily want to ask from your lecturer."
  • "PAL helps you to feel more confident about course assignments and exams."
  • "Good to speak to other students who have been through the worries already."
  • "It makes you realise you're not the only one struggling, it helps to consolidate knowledge or learn it in a different way that makes more sense."
  • "It is very helpful if you can't get your head around something that has been taught, as you can go through it in a smaller group and not in a lecture environment."
  • "It's nice to have student support even if you don't need it all the time."
  • "The PAL leaders are approachable and happy to answer any questions you may have about work, assignments, the campus, events etc."

What the PAL leaders say

I'm a Year 2, Year 3 or postgraduate student. What student-to-student support can I access?

Our peer-led Resilient U workshops are open to all students across the University and are bookable via Infohub.

These student-led interactive workshops help you adopt a proactive approach to building the confidence you need to succeed at university and in life. You will have the opportunity to work through a case study so you can talk about resilience in a practical way without necessarily sharing your own story. you will also explore the skills needed for resilience and self-empowerment so that you are more able to tackle the challenges that come your way.

For additional information about the concept of resilience and the content of these workshops, please visit the developing resilience guidance from our Wellbeing service.

One-to-one peer support

if you are a care leaver, an estranged student or a student carer starting your undergraduate study, and are known to UWE Cares, you can benefit from the 1:1 support of a student PAL Mentor.

Your trained PAL Mentor is a Year 2 or 4 student who can listen, signpost you to a range of services and help you make the most of the many opportunities UWE Bristol offers, including the UWE Bristol Futures Award. Your mentor will help you settle into university life by being a friendly point of contact throughout your first year, and your mentoring meetings are usually confidential.

UWE Cares will offer you a student PAL mentor during the summer if you say you are a care leaver, an estranged student or a student carer. If this sounds like you but you have not heard about the scheme then please contact UWE Cares. More information about UWE Cares and the support they offer can be found on the UWE Cares webpages.

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