Agony aunt

November 23, 2001

Q : I'd like to get my students to help one another more. I've heard of Pals. What does is stand for and how does it work?

A : Pals stands for peer-assisted learning strategies and can take many forms. The basic idea is that students "teach" each other, in small groups or individually, or even the whole class. They must receive guidance on what they teach and they may need support in devising and structuring their lesson. The content needs monitoring to ensure that they meet their objectives.

The spin-off is a rise in students' self-esteem as they use skills they might not otherwise engage. Students on professional courses said they got a feel for one another's roles. Pass marks increased for final-year accounting students when they taught the whole class as small teaching teams, and they rated Pals as one of the "three best things about the module".

When students teach, they really have to learn the subject matter, and fellow students appreciate the effort and engage in the sessions fully.

It is amazing how creative students can be with their teaching materials and they certainly appreciate the job of the lecturer after they've had a go.

Be warned, monitoring is vital. It is easy for Pals to become dysfunctional if a minority do not engage.


Eddie Blass, Senior lecturer, Derbyshire Business School, University of Derby.

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