Start your own scheme
There are numerous benefits to introducing peer learning and mentoring schemes into the curriculum or to support co-curricular activities. If you would like to consider developing your own scheme, think about how you would like your students to benefit and consider what type of scheme might work best for you. You may wish to contact colleagues who run their own schemes or you can contact the authors of this guide, who would be more than happy to provide advice and guidance on how to go about setting up your own scheme.
Start your own Peer Support Community
Engaging students in peer learning provides a broad range of benefits for staff, peer mentors and mentees. Depending on what your goal is, different models may be adopted and customised to suit your needs. Here a just a few examples of how different peer learning models can promote academic, social and personal development opportunities.
Vygotsky was a well known psychologist who developed the concept of the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). In simple terms, this concept determines that peers can learn more together than they could individually, collectively constructing new knowledge. Creating peer learning schemes can therefore be a valuable aid to helping students learn together. This process often occurs naturally, with students setting up informal study groups. By creating more formal peer learning schemes this provides the opportunity for all students to benefit from the support of fellow peers.
The use of peer mentoring can provide a range of benefits, depending on how it is implemented. As with peer learning, peer mentoring can facilitate learning with mentors supporting the learning of mentees. There are other associated benefits of this approach for both mentors and mentees. This includes increased confidence, communication skills and independent learning skills. In addition, mentors develop strong leadership and presentation skills.
Peer learning by its very nature, brings together students and can therefore promote social integration. Developing peer groups can help socially orientate students to their new life at university, develop group cohesion within a course and act as an opportunity to promote student wellbeing. Such schemes can be fairly informal, running early in a course to help students get to know each other, or more structured, extending through the academic year.
In addition to social development, supporting students in a peer learning scheme can provide opportunities for personal and professional development. Students can develop a greater sense of self-worth, or self-efficacy by engaging in peer learning activities. That is, they can develop a greater belief in their own abilities and sense of achievement, which can come from the support of the peer community they are involved in. The various skills they can develop whilst engaged in peer activities (communication, problem solving etc.) can also help them as graduates, promoting and articulating their skills to prospective employers.