Types of Peer Support
Peer support can work in different ways and involves students sharing knowledge, experience, emotional assistance, practical help and social interaction with each other. Many universities across the UK encourage peer support through schemes such as:
- Peer Mentoring
- Peer Learning
- Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS)
- Buddy programmes
In the US, another common form of peer support is offered through what are called ‘capstone projects’ or courses. These can range from fairly informal student groups collaborating right up to integrated courses where students even live alongside each other in student accommodation. However, the principle is the same regardless of scheme; that is, students supporting each other.
Why is peer support important?
Peer support has always provided students with a range of academic and social benefits but its benefits in other areas of support is increasingly being acknowledged. For example, increased attention has been placed on mental health and universities are working to create an environment which promotes good mental wellbeing. For many new students, transitioning to university life can be a daunting experience, therefore it is important that they have a variety of strong support systems to help them settle into university life.
How should I promote peer support?
There are different types of peer support, along with any number of variations on ‘standard’ models. When considering which scheme to adopt it is important to think about what sort of support you want to promote with your students. Do you want to promote social networks, which can be particularly helpful at the start of courses; do you want to promote student personal development such as increased confidence and wellbeing; or do you want to promote academic development?
The scheme you choose will depend on the goal you set and how you want students to support each other. Once you are clear about what you want peer support to help with, the type of scheme that lends itself to different goals, will be easier to select.