Welcome to Peer Support News. Thank you for volunteering to be part of the huge peer mentoring and peer assisted learning (PAL) community at the University of Bath. We want to highlight all the great peer support you are giving each other. We also want the peer support community to keep growing so we will be letting you know about all the new and exciting opportunities to get more involved.

Looking back

Summer was busy with the introduction of a new Foreign Language PAL scheme for pre-sessional students looking to improve their English language skills and intercultural awareness. A mixture of undergraduate, doctoral and PGT students volunteered to lead the sessions over ten weeks. A huge thank you to Isabella Stefanutti and Chang He from Foreign Languages for helping us co-ordinate the new scheme and train the great PAL leaders.

We were also recruiting and training new mentors for the Postgraduate Peer Mentoring schemes in the faculties of Engineering & Design and Humanities & Social Sciences. Thank you to all those existing mentors who have signed up for a second or even third year running. You are truly dedicated to the peer support cause!

Undergraduate peer mentors across all the faculties have done an amazing job welcoming first year students to the University and are now helping them settle into life at Bath. 

Email peersupport@bath.ac.uk if you have a success story you would like us to share with the peer support community. Remember if you are running a peer mentoring event or PAL session, take some photos or video and send them on to us. We would love to share these too.

Spotlight

Psychology PAL is growing!  Following the success of the scheme for first year students we are now running PAL sessions for second year students too. Thank you to Ian Fairholm and Sally Adams from the department for supporting this exciting development.

Ian has helped PAL develop since its introduction. Here he shares his experiences of PAL and the benefits to students, PAL Leaders and the University.

How do you think PAL supports the students’ engagement with their studies and their learning?

At one level it's a great social and learning environment - students who want help are given the tools to help themselves by enthusiastic students in other years with more experience, all of which takes place in a safe environment - but it's also more than that. I think the central ideas behind PAL, such as encouraging participation, sharing ideas, collaborative learning, and tasks that create a safe space to try things out all support engagement with their studies and learning.

How do think the PAL leaders benefit from their role in the scheme?

I see PAL leaders benefit in huge and assorted ways. Being a PAL leader can lead to an increase in self-reflection and confidence and from there it can dramatically change them. It depends on the students, though - different students can benefit in different ways. I've seen shy PAL leaders grow in confidence, become more outspoken and capable. But I've also seen outspoken PAL leaders gain a greater sense of restraint, more self-awareness, and learn to know when they are better keeping quiet and when they should speak up.

Has feedback from the sessions helped inform any aspects of decision making in the department in relation to teaching and learning?  

Absolutely. The main thing from last year is that feedback from the sessions told us where students were struggling in certain units during the strike action, so members of staff who were on strike knew where to focus their efforts and attention when they came back after the strike. This meant that the strike was not undermined (because the PAL sessions didn't replace the teaching) but it also helped students and staff during a difficult time. 

The PAL scheme has opened the department up to consider how PAL might be used more widely within our degree programmes, hopefully further benefiting students and staff.

Looking forward

We are working closely with the Placement Teams in Science and Humanities & Social Sciences to provide final year placement peer mentors to support second year students starting their placement journey. Thank you to all those students who have volunteered for this mentoring role. We know your help will be invaluable.

We have just introduced a new mentoring scheme for MRes students in Humanities & Social Sciences. The mentors are a great group of doctoral students who have been MRes students in the recent past and can share their experiences and knowledge. A big thank you to Sharon Firkins for helping us co-ordinate the new scheme

Academic PAL and Foreign Language PAL continue to run this year. Good luck to all the new PAL leader for your first sessions. Happy facilitating!

Volunteer of the month

Each month we are going to name a Peer Support volunteer or group of volunteers who have gone above and beyond, deserving some extra recognition for their efforts!

If you would like to nominate a volunteer or group of volunteers for our first award, you can do so by emailing peersupport@bath.ac.uk before 25 October stating your nominee(s) and why you think they deserve recognition.

Have a great October.