Using Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) to connect with students

“After my class I was walking with some of my students back to my office. On my way there they were telling me how they had understood the model that I showed them in class when Mary, a PAL leader, had explained it to them. Perhaps it was because Mary explained it better than me, or perhaps it is because it would have been the third time the student had heard an explanation about the model, or maybe it was just the PAL classroom environment that had helped. Something there helped! Knowing this I thought it would be a good idea to then have the PAL leaders explain the model, I would film this and then make it available on iLearn. I then made an announcement to all my students telling them that I had made this video available. I am hoping that the explanation in the video would have helped them understand this concept”. (Dr. Mauricio Marrone, Unit Convenor, Accounting Information System”).

This discussion with Mauricio made me realise that PAL is really changing its shape when the course convenor supports it and uses it as a resource to communicate with his students. Even though we don’t know at this stage how many students watched the video and if it helped them comprehend the topic better but it is clear that the lecturer has listened to his students’ comments and quickly responded to their needs. In this scenario PAL became an integrated part of the unit, and the PAL Leaders and the unit convenor are working on common goals: helping students learn. The unit convenor does not merely view PAL as a remedial program, but he promotes it as an opportunity for students to engage with the content for the second or third time and finally master it properly. This positive relationship between the academic and PAL has helped the program attract and retain more students. The PAL classes are full which is a good indicator that students are engaged with the unit, they are having fun and are happy to spare an hour of their valuable time on PAL.

The more the unit convenor supports PAL and engages with the PAL Team, the more successful and effective the program is in helping students learn and engage with the unit. This approach ensures that PAL is an integral part of the unit and not just an appendix operating on the side.

If PAL is attached to your unit, think of PAL as an opportunity to connect with your students. PAL provides a friendly and relaxed environment where students get together to learn the content while having fun and receiving guidance from the PAL Leaders. PAL Leaders are a great resource to help you understand how your students feel about the content that you delivered, how they feel about the tutorials and generally about the unit. Consider using them as a valuable source for feedback.  Having a chat to the PAL Team can really help you understand your students and build a stronger relationship with them particularly if you are teaching a large cohort.

We will continue posting other initiatives that we are doing in PAL to showcase what is really happening in PAL and what the program has to offer to students.  In the meantime if you are interested in the topic please feel free to comment below….