Aims of this guide
We designed this guide to be read in association with its partner: What Is Learning Leadership? which briefly outlines the philosophy and original principles upon which we based the Learning Leadership scheme. The document you are reading now, by contrast, outlines the practical processes that were involved when we first introduced the scheme in a range of disciplinary areas. It aims to offer insight into some of the challenges (and misconceptions) that are commonly associated with establishing peer-assisted learning schemes and also illuminates some of the strategies and pragmatic approaches we came up with to address these challenges. To this end, then, Putting Learning Leadership into Practice aims to offer an holistic overview of the whole process of running the scheme, so that readers can build a picture of all the aspects that were entailed in its first iteration. It also briefly introduces students’ perspectives on their involvement in the scheme, drawn from our initial evaluations.
These are presented to give the reader a feel for the ways in which Learning Leadership promoted academic engagement, especially a sense of ‘academic-social’ (Nicol, 2009) belonging to a programme amongst Learning Leaders and their mentees alike.
In practice, Linda Graham, who was the Student Development Officer responsible for launching Learning Leadership, introduced the scheme in six key phases. We believe all of these stages are essential elements to consider if student support schemes are to be effective and well-received by students. In other words, the stages we outline in this guide form a set of common challenges for any peer-mentoring scheme which it is important to consider and address. They include the issues associated with:
1. Getting started and setting up a scheme
2. Recruitment of Learning Leaders
3. Training the Learning Leaders
4. Managing first years’ expectations
5. Delivering the Learning Leader sessions
6. Evaluation, embedding and sustainability
GETTING STARTED: CONSULTATION
During this stage of putting Learning Leadership into practice the Student Development Officer held a series of face-to-face meetings with key staff in the discipline area. These were important, enabling her to develop a clear picture of the key issues and challenges which staff felt Learning Leadership might help to address in the particular subject area. These meetings, for instance, involved key stakeholders (such as Associate Deans/ Programme Leaders or Lecturers with particular responsibility for programme areas, or staff with key responsibilities for learning and teaching enhancement, or student wellbeing). The consultations enabled staff to discuss their views of the key challenges and issues in the particular area. These might, for example, include concerns relating to
- the need to improve induction
- student anxiety or concern about particularly ‘difficult’ concepts or ideas in the first year
- supporting students to approach their placements effectively
- perceptions of the need to manage first years’ expectations about the nature of the course, its expectations and demands
- first years’ misconceptions of the specific nature of the course and its links to graduateness
These meetings resulted in
1) A set of agreed decisions from staff about the aims and objectives of the Learning Leadership scheme in relation to the local context.
2) A proposed timeline for putting Learning Leadership into practice, taking into account of pragmatic things like student start-dates, the timings of placements, finding times when both student groups would be available on-campus and off-timetable to meet.
3) An action plan to co- ordinate further meetings with the key personnel responsible for
a) timetabling/making room bookings
b) establishing necessary communication channels between staff-students groups for students on the e-learning portal, or arrangements were made for key administrative support from personnel who had an overview of class lists, timetable information and contact details for both year- groups and so on).
4) Ideally, future briefing sessions were also established. These were open for all staff who would be involved with both year groups to ensure their familiarity with the scheme, its principles and parameters and, ideally, establish ‘buy-in’ (an aspect which students very quickly pick up on).
Finally, during this stage key academic champions were identified, who would ultimately take responsibility for the sustainability of the scheme in the relevant discipline/ professional area and who were willing and available to attend and participate in the Learning Leader training day. In most circumstances, these were members of staff who were committed to establishing an appreciative tone and were keen to work in partnership with their students to enhance student engagement in support of the first year experience. In the most successful schemes, they were people who did not frame the first years as being in deficit and in ‘need’ of skills and ‘remedial’ help, but who appreciated the challenging nature of the transitions that newcomers faced in terms of developing the independent learning style expected of students in higher education and who had aspirations to work with Learning Leaders to find new ways forward to improve the first year experience in the future.
THE RECRUITMENT OF LEARNING LEADERS
In the light of the above consultations, the next stage of the process involved identifying appropriate potential Learning Leaders. In each subject area this entailed making a series of decisions which included, for instance, whether to involve second years or third year students. Here factors such as student workloads (whether second years had more flexibility to volunteer because third years were doing dissertations, for example), or the ‘fit’ of a cohort’s experiences with the target group were considered. In practice, most subject areas decided to try to recruit second year students to become Learning Leaders.
Once decisions had been made about which year/groups to target, Learning Leadership was open to all students who had successfully undertaken and progressed from the relevant first year course. Moreover, it was always voluntary. This meant that careful explanation and briefing was necessary, to ensure that volunteers were fully aware of the levels of responsibility and commitment they were signing up to if they decided to become a Learning Leader. Face to face recruitment, in our experience, was always the most successful method of recruitment. This was usually conducted by the Student Development Officer, who attended a core lecture where she could speak directly for 15-20 minutes to the relevant cohort of students. A clear presentation format was prepared for this important event, with PowerPoint slides which explained the whole process and, as the scheme developed, incorporated former Learning Leaders’ voices, to offer potential applicants a sighting of some students’ perspectives on the benefits of involvement.
It was important, too, that the staff in the core lecture were fully appraised of scheme and were enthusiastic and supportive during the session. Students very quickly picked up on the tacit signs their lecturers conveyed about the scheme, and this is where the buy- in of the relevant course team was vital. Recruitment worked best when staff contributed to the Student Development Officer’s presentation by
- highlighting key aspects which first years in the subject area usually find challenging
- contextualising the benefits of being a Learning Leader (e.g. in relation to employability, or ‘hands-on’ experience of working with others) with regard to their discipline area/future profession
It proved especially useful to take experienced Learning Leaders along to recruitment to offer a ‘student’s eye view.’ These people could come from other discipline’s schemes if necessary. It was also important, at these recruitment sessions, to have pre-prepared sign-up sheets ready to record students’ expressions of interest on the day. These sheets needed to clearly identify the student’s name, and university e-mail (for use by the identified university administrative team, who subsequently usually handled contact with students with regard to the scheme).
TRAINING THE LEARNING LEADERS
A full training programme for Learning Leadership was absolutely essential. This usually took a full day, although, in particular circumstances, it could sometimes be compressed into half a day. It was vital, though, that no student became a Learning Leader unless they had attended the training and this was made very clear in the recruitment process.
Throughout the training programme, creative approaches and interactive workshop exercises were used, so that the training itself became based upon participative, constructivist principles, with participants building relevant knowledge and skills, via a process of discussion and interaction. As a whole, the training event addressed a range of important aspects to do with becoming a peer mentor, as follows.
Establishing the Learning Leader teams.
Learning Leaders always worked in teams when meeting their first year groups, so the first aspect of the training event focused on enabling participants to establish themselves into working groups or teams. These then formed the groupings which were used for the design and delivery of the Learning Leaders’ sessions.
Outlining and clearly defining boundaries.
This aspect of the training event ensured that Learning Leaders appreciated the roles and responsibilities entailed in the role. This was important, to make sure that our Learning Leaders were fully aware of what they could and, equally importantly, couldn’t do in Learning Leader sessions. Here, areas that have been commonly identified as vital by well- established schemes and global models of peer-assisted support were covered and taken into account.
In our case, the UK National Centre for PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions)/SI (Supplemental Instruction) provided invaluable help with this element of our scheme, via, for instance, the comprehensive Supervisor Training offered by the ‘Students As Partners’ experts at Manchester University, with whom we have continued to work closely. Linda Graham undertook the training before we began to design and implement Learning Leadership and qualified as a PASS/SI Supervisor. Several other academics in the relevant disciplinary areas subsequently completed the UK National Centre’s training too.
This aspect of the Learning Leader training day included, for instance:
- knowing when and how to signpost first years to other services or people within the university (e.g. finance, Guidance Tutors, library services, module tutors, student services)
- realising that Learning Leaders are not teaching,but are facilitators who share their experiences and personal insights
- realising that Learning Leaders are not counsellors
- appreciating the boundary between telling students ‘the answers’ or explaining subject material and offering them opportunities to discuss and (co) construct their own knowledge
- appreciating the boundary between creating an informal environment in which students feel able to talk and knowing how/ when to close down a discussion which is unethical or too personal
Introducing Learning Leaders to perspectives on how students learn and the conditions under which learning is most likely to occur.
The next aspect of the training day was based upon enabling the Learning Leaders to consider scholarly perspectives on how students learn, raising their awareness of the commonly- accepted conditions in which learning is most likely to occur. While, of course, there are no simple answers to the questions ‘how do students learn?’ and ‘how can we make learning happen?’ many years of pedagogic research and scholarship in highereducation mean that much is now known about how learning occurs, what conditions typically enable effective learning, and what works to foster learning both in and beyond the classroom (Fry et al, 2008; Hutchings, 2005).
Constructivist principles, which are widely accepted in higher education, suggest that learning is not simply an accumulation of facts or the acquisition of more information such that students simply reproduce or regurgitate information. Instead, learning is typically regarded as being about making meaning and concerns how we view and understand the world (Marton and Booth, 1997). Learning of the higher order that is prized in university education can, then, usually only happen when learners themselves actively construct their own knowledge, changing and developing their perceptions to incorporate new, more refined understandings and linkages. In practical terms, this means that ‘good’ pedagogic environments in higher education are designed to bring about this change or transformation in the ways in which students see the subject, by engaging their students in meaningful interactions with subject matter.
However, pedagogic research has also helped us to begin to develop an informed understanding of why students may not yet see why particular content areas and generic ideas in higher education matter. For instance, research is increasingly drawing our attention to the ways in which, when they first come to university, most first years see learning simply as a matter of acquiring and reproducing information (Fry et al, 2008; Kember, 2001) and need help and multiple opportunities to reframe their epistemological premises in order to draw most benefit from the experience of learning in higher education. It is also revealing the extent to which students are often unsettled and thrown by the radical differences they experience between appropriate approaches to study in school/further education and effective approaches to learning in higher education (Foster et al, 2011; Hockings, 2009). This is particularly salient if it is accepted that, as Hardy and Clughen (2012) argue, whilst students themselves often feel well-prepared for the demands of university study in terms of reading and writing (Smith, 2005), their perceptions of their preparedness, and the strategies they successfully adopted at ‘A’ level, fail to match the cultural realities of the assessments they encounter.
Accordingly while the issue of first year transition and engagement is broad and extremely complex, one potential step forward might be to heighten participating students’ appreciation of well-established, evidence-informed principles and concepts about student learning and raise their awareness of the (often tacit) rules of engagement (Haggis, 2006) which underpin what we have called learnership (the role or state of being a learner) at university level.
According to the QAA, a key characteristic of UK higher education is the emphasis that is placed on the responsibility of students for their own learning. While the university is responsible for creating a range of learning opportunities and resources, the effectiveness with which those learning opportunities are actually used is a matter for students themselves. In other words, higher education is typically conceived as a partnership between students (who actively engage in a variety of learning activities) and staff (who provide various learning opportunities and resources).
This means, of course, that staff and students alike are jointly responsible for the co-production of transformative learning which enables individuals to acquire and develop knowledge, skills, values and dispositions which will serve them not just during their time at university, but also for their futures as graduates (Barrie, 2006; Boud and Associates, 2010). Students’ capacity to pinpoint and articulate their graduate qualities and dispositions- which include the capacity for self-regulation and active, independent learning- is an important dimension of employability (Knight & Yorke, 2003) and learning for the longer term (Boud, 2006).
From our viewpoint, these principles underpin the development of Assessment for Learning or AfL (see McDowell et al, 2006; Sambell, McDowell & Montgomery, 2013). A key purpose of AfL is to foster student development in taking responsibility for evaluating, judging and improving their own performance by actively using a range of feedback that is provided both formally and informally via active participation in a programme of study. These capabilities are at the heart of autonomous learning and of the graduate qualities valued by employers and in professional practice. To help people in the university to put this into practice the CETL developed six conditions for AfL, 2 based on evidence drawn from research and scholarship in the field of student learning in higher education. These acted as principles which helped to guide staff in the creation of enhanced learning opportunities for their students.
We originally designed the training to introduce students to these core principles, so that they, too, became familiar, to a degree, with key concepts about learning, teaching and assessment in higher education, much in the way that staff might in their pre-service training for teaching in universities (Kandlbinder and Pesata, 2009). Consequently an attempt to raise students’ awareness of commonly- used pedagogic concepts and discourses around approaches to learning, teaching and assessment in university was a key feature of the training. We designed this element of the training on the assumption that, in order to effectively support first years’ learning experiences, Learning Leaders would benefit from developing some knowledge of how students learn, because this would afford them the concepts to understand, reflect upon, discuss and articulate the process of transition to university with others by opening up fruitful discussions about learning to think and practice within the context of the particular programme of study.
In one sense we saw this as a matter of offering students themselves the opportunities to develop formal knowledge about student learning that are routinely on offer to us as staff. As awareness of the importance of the scholarship of teaching and learning (Boyer, 1990) grows within the sector, and a public body of knowledge about student learning is generated and subjected to a process of peer review and development (Huber & Hutchings, 2005), novice and experienced staff in higher education are typically being offered multiple formal and informal opportunities to learn more about student learning, based on the assumption that awareness, conceptual development and reflection are germane to effective academic practice and necessary to drive innovation, change and improvement forward, for the benefit of our students.
Hutchings (2005) argues, however, that it is important to start sharing this developing pedagogical knowledge with students, too. She asserts that the benefits are twofold: first, working in partnership on scholarly work around student learning has the capacity to raise the quality of the feedback and advice students themselves can offer to improve academic practice but second, it helps students become better learners by developing what she calls their own ‘pedagogical intelligence.’ For Hutchings, pedagogical intelligence involves developing an understanding of how learning happens, and an appreciation and embracing of the disposition to shape one’s own learning; to be an active agent of learning; to seek out proactively and consciously engineer experiences in which one’s learning is advanced. It is widely accepted, she argues, that learners who are self-conscious about the processes of learning and teaching tend to be more successful.
From this perspective student learning is deepened not only in the immediate context of doing well with specific university tasks, but also in what Boud (2006) would call ‘learning for the longer term,’ as students learn to monitor and regulate their own work during the process of its production. In the context of higher education research arguments are mounting for doing more to help students fully understand what the nature of the differences between learning in school or college and learning in higher education might be, especially with regard to approaches to study, assessment and feedback (Sambell, 2011; Price et al, 2010; Carless et al, 2006), because engaging fully with these areas of academic practice are all vital to the autonomous learning that is privileged in higher education. As Hutchings suggests:
‘Students need to be able to make connections between what is learned in very different and typically unconnected settings. And to do this they need to be able to step back and see what their efforts add up to, to take stock both of what they have learned and what it will take to get to the next level of understanding. In short, they need to be agents of their own learning. It is hard for students to reflect on and assess their own experiences as learners, to get past the idea of learning as something that happens to them, and to see their education as something they can create and control. But when teachers continue to create opportunities for such self-assessment, students get better at identifying and seeking out what they need to advance their knowledge and abilities.’
It is important to emphasise, then, that we do not see learnership as simply a matter of developing discrete ‘study skills’ (Wingate, 2006) or techniques which are somehow generic and separable from the discipline or subject. Improvements to student learning are increasingly being recognised as not just a matter of developing knowledge, skills and attitudes specific to the subject area, but also concern their growing appreciation of ideas that matter – such as the nature of relativistic or contextual knowing- which will enable them to participate effectively in their long-term civic, professional and personal lives (Kreber, 2007). Viewed through this lens, academic engagement lies in the university’s capacity to communicate to students not only an enthusiasm for the subject, but a keen sense of why and how the subject matters (Kreber, 2007) to those who live and breathe it as researchers and scholars. This means that one’s subject is not just a ‘prescribed curriculum’ that needs to be transmitted to students, it is a way of thinking about the world which matters, crucially, not just for ourselves, but for society as a whole. Seen like this, engaging students with our disciplinary ways of thinking and practising means more than delivering information to them, it entails making vital connections between our students and the subject, so they begin to see how and why particular content areas are important, not just in the university itself but also beyond it.
It is salutary to remember, though, how long it takes experts to develop the habits of mind, values, beliefs, dispositions and outlooks that they take for granted as being part and parcel of ‘doing’ their subject. It remains important, too, to remain sensitive to the ways in which students – especially newcomers- might not yet see things as experts see them.
Consequently, enabling students to make effective transitions into higher education presents some very real challenges for staff and students alike, which we felt that fostering cross-level student discussions around learnership might help to address.
Taking a look at learning
This aspect of the training encouraged participants to take a ‘fresh look at learning’, (Race, 2006). Here workshop activities were participative and designed to actively engage the Learning Leaders in reflections on, and discussions about, their own learning experiences to develop their ‘pedagogical intelligence’ (Hutchings, 2005). Race’s ‘ripples on a pond’ model was used to set the scene for these discussions because it offers a convincing theoretical framework for helping students to think about what learning might be, and how both teachers and learners can make learning happen. The highly accessible ‘ripples’ model also readily applies to a wide range of learning and teaching situations and acts as a useful tool for exploring teaching and learning practice. The ripples metaphor draws explicit attention to the key inter-related factors that Race identifies as underpinning successful learning: wanting/needing to learn; learning by doing; learning through feedback and actively making sense of things. The discussions enabled students to pinpoint and discuss concrete examples from their own experience of learning at university to date and formed a shared basis for subsequent discussions. They also allowed students to surface their feelings and beliefs about aspects of their learning in a form of self-evaluation. An important aspect of the training was to establish an appreciative tone throughout, encouraging a focus on positive aspects (discussions of the students’ progress, success and achievement). Many of the participants said that the training made them realise what they had achieved, reframing their natural tendency to focus exclusively on things they were not good at, can’t do, or ‘needed’ to improve.
The students’ discussions that emerged from these workshop activities were gradually linked to the pedagogically-oriented discourses underpinning what Biggs (2005) has called ‘the student learning literature’. Here, for example, the fundamental concepts of approaches to learning (Ramsden, 2003; Biggs & Tang, 2007; Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle, 1997) were introduced to and discussed by participants. Research conducted by Kandlbinder and Pesata (2009) discovered that the concepts epitomised by the student learning literature have become staple aspects of many pre-service training courses because they are usually deemed essential for any person who is being trained to become responsible for supporting students’ learning. Arguably, approaches to learning are threshold concepts in learning and teaching in higher education, which need to be understood before a person can understand other aspects that flow from them (Fry et al, 2008: 14). In addition, according to Case (2007), the metaphors of ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ approaches to learning have come to epitomise the core values of higher education within the literature and teacher’s discourse. In other words, on one level they represent the tacit ‘rules of the game’ of learnership and fundamental prerequisites to the development of pedagogical literacy in higher education contexts. Many of the participants claimed to be struck by the metaphors of ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ approaches to learning, and the idea that learning could be viewed not as an essential attribute of the individual, but an approach or intention depending, to a large degree, on one’s interpretation of the demands of the situation. Some felt that this was an eye-opener which helped them to ‘see’ and think about learning in ways which had not occurred to them before: one even felt it had been kept from her as ‘some sort of secret.’
Arguably, students need to appreciate these unspoken ‘rules’- and develop their pedagogical literacy- if they are to genuinely appreciate many of the university’s expectations about the ways in which they are expected to engage with the learning opportunities and assessment demands (Haggis, 2003) of higher education. As Hutchings (2005) argues, students need to realise that, at university, just jumping through the hoops that their teachers set is not enough, and risks wasting the opportunities on offer in higher education. However, as observed earlier, research into the first year experience is showing that we must not underestimate how hard it is for some students to get past the idea of learning as something that happens to them, and to see their education as something they can create and control.
Further, arguments are mounting for devising interventions which explicitly involve students in assessment dialogues to develop their conceptions of assessment and feedback and the active part they play in these key processes (Sambell, 2011; Price et al, 2012; Carless et al, 2006). This is increasingly being seen as a matter of developing students’ assessment literacy, again in an effort to make tacit assumptions about assessment (and feedback) in higher education explicit and visible to newcomers. Moreover it seems logical to assume that assessment literacy relates directly to pedagogical literacy. Foster et al’s (2011) research, for instance, reported significant differences between students’ experiences of college/school and the first year at university, with major differences found between the use of feedback, approaches to taking notes and independent learning. The Higher Education Retention and Engagement (HERE) project also found that doubters (students who had considered withdrawal) typically struggled to understand the different nature of feedback in HE and were unconfident in their ability to cope because they didn’t feel the feedback they received was useful. Bryson and Hardy (2012, cited by Colley et al, 2011) reported that in their research students often continued to utilise approaches to study learnt in school and failed to adapt them to learning at university, often experiencing confusion because the practices of higher education appeared to be ‘the same game’ but actually had ‘different rules’ (see Leask, 2006).
For these reasons the Learning Leader training programme sought to raise Learning Leaders’ awareness of the views of learning, feedback and assessment which underpin our model of AfL. These were related to the discussions and experiences that emerged from the students’ interactions with the workshop activities, encouraging participating students to make connections between their own course experiences and relevant aspects of the AfL core conditions, such as authenticity, ‘new’ models of feedback and self-evaluation.
Appreciating learner identities and reflecting on what it feels like to be a newcomer in academic practice within a discipline
In the next phase of the training activities were designed to encourage the Learning Leaders to reflect on and talk with each other about the ways in which they had approached learning when they were first years themselves. These were used to surface their perspectives on the challenges of transition they encountered and the epistemological shifts they made during the first year experience. Here particular emphasis was placed on specific rather than general issues, so as to relate back to the issues which emerged via the consultation phase with staff. The issues students identified became those which were subsequently used to inform the design of the Learning Leader sessions with their first year groups- so these were listed.
Developing an appreciation of the specific skills needed by a Learning Leader
An important aspect of the training involved explicit support for developing the set of skills which mentors need in order to fulfil their role effectively. These might include, for instance
- Becoming an accomplished listener
- Demonstrating and developing empathy
- Learning how to redirect questions, to prompt discussion amongst the wider group and encourage the 1st years to construct knowledge, rather than passively receiving information
- Knowing how to enthuse, support and motivate first year students appropriately and knowing how to deal with ‘mood-hoovers’ during Learning Leader sessions
- Learning how to ask open and closed questions
- Learning to understand and interpret group dynamics,‘read’ body language and work co-operatively and sensitively
Designing and developing the bespoke Learning Leader sessions
The final aspect of the training event focused on supporting the Learning Leaders, in their respective teams, to design and develop their Learning Leader sessions. Interestingly, in practice, in almost all instances of running the training, the Student Development Officer noticed remarkably high coincidences between staff and students views of the major issues which might need to be addressed by the scheme. Once the session plans were drafted, they were mapped to key delivery dates so the timetable for the bespoke Learning Leader sessions could be drawn up and agreed.
Immediately after the training
All of the Learning Leaders were then sent details of the team members in their Learning Leader group. They also received details about the timings, venues and dates of the Learning Leader sessions for which they were responsible, together with a list of first years who had signed up/been invited to attend. The collective design of the first Learning Leader session was also produced and circulated to the Learning Leader teams.
WORKSHOP WITH THE FIRST YEARS
During this stage of the process, the Student Development Officer worked closely with the targeted first years to raise their awareness of the scheme, to brief them about what would be entailed, to explain its potential benefits, and, above all, to ensure that they appreciated the roles and responsibilities of the Learning Leaders and the first years themselves. This session, which typically lasted for 30 minutes, also allowed the first years time and space to discuss and generate key issues they might hope to discuss with their Learning Leaders. Once more, it is worth emphasising that buy-in from staff was invaluable and arguably essential at this stage, as it helped to signal to the first years that the support available is useful and a crucial aspect of transition.
DELIVERING THE LEARNING LEADER SESSIONS
The Learning Leader sessions needed to be timetabled, have appropriate room bookings made, and needed to be clearly communicated to the first years well in advance, as well as being promoted proactively by teaching staff. Staff did not need to attend the sessions themselves, because it was felt that this would change the dynamic of the session. However, it was useful if staff were on hand, generally-speaking, outside the meetings, to respond to any queries that the Learning Leaders were not able to deal with as a result of their session.
Evaluation of the scheme took a range of formats, including online questionnaires,3 focus groups and discussions, during debriefing sessions, with Learning Leaders themselves. Students’ perspectives (both first year and Learning Leaders) were extremely helpful in future developments of the scheme in a discipline area. In addition the Student Development Officer met with key staff to discuss their views of the scheme, and review the ways in which it was felt to have addressed the objectives/issues they originally proposed. The teams also discussed any adjustments to the delivery of the scheme in future iterations. This process offered an opportunity to discuss any mismatches between staff and students’ perspectives on particular issues, or any issues from the student perspective which staff were unaware of- so acting as useful feedback on broad issues which might not otherwise have surfaced through normal quality assurance procedures.
Having supported the start-up of the scheme, the Student Development Officer then ‘handed-over’ to champions based within the subject area/relevant School. Here it was important for course teams to identify people who would subsequently not only organise the pragmatic arrangements for running the Learning Leader sessions, but also run the training, recruitment and related workshops involved in the scheme. Working out mechanisms for identifying and supporting suitable and informed champions of the scheme was an important aspect of successful embedding. The key to successful schemes lay, in our experience, in student and staff champions, who worked in partnership, were committed to an appreciative tone, and who were motivated and enthusiastic.
Students’ perspectives on the value of the scheme
First years’ views included
‘I gained confidence hearing from a current student talking about their experiences of learning. A big thank you to the Learning Leaders!’
The Leaders were all very friendly and open to our questions. They sounded so professional which, considering the short space of time that they have been studying, was quite inspiring. The thing I got the most from the session was that I wasn’t alone feeling scared and out of my comfort zone as the Leaders all echoed having had those same feelings last year and that although a high standard is expected from the students that there is a lot of support to be had.’
‘I thought the session with the 2nd year Learning Leaders was a fantastic idea. In the session we were able to ask about various aspects of the 1st year course which some of us were a little uncertain of and just talking to other students who had been in our shoes was very reassuring. I personally found it to be one of the most valuable sessions in freshers’ week.’
‘They helped me see how what we’re studying now actually becomes very relevant next year, when you go to the second year.’
Learning Leaders’ views included:
‘My involvement with the Learning Leadership scheme made me appreciate the development of my own learning from first year. It made me realise how much I had actually learnt!’
‘The scheme was introduced to enable students from other years to meet. I was disappointed in my first year that I had no interaction with students from other years. I think it’s important as part of identity as a student at my university’
‘Working collaboratively and meeting year ones is a reminder of how far we have come since year one and reflecting on what we have experienced.’
‘I feel if I had this when I started last year and had the help from 2nd years it would have made me feel more at ease and prepared for what was ahead.’
‘Although the Scheme was developed with the intention of aiding first years with their transition from college students into law undergraduates, it also provided me with a view of the progress I have made from that initial stage to where I am now. Being able to reflect on this enabled me to determine which methods of learning best suited me and which were the most effective. I have since applied this knowledge to assessments I have undertaken with good results.’
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