Loughborough Academic Awards
This year's LAAs, hosted by our very own Education EO Lewis Wood, saw the Union transformed into a West End-esque setting that perfectly embodied the Night at the Theatre theme.
We are really proud to say that this year the Awards' programme featured more Peer Support volunteers than ever, in recognition of their fantastic work throughout the year and would like to congratulate all those who were nominated for what were hotly contested categories! The awards included: Most Engaged Peer Support Volunteer, Peer Support Volunteer of the Year and the Champion of Peer Support award. They were presented to students: Monika Hristova, Amir Sharifnia and Adam Handley, alongside staff member Richard Hodgkins respectively, in celebration of their efforts within their capacities as Peer Support volunteers.
Once again, we would like to give our congratulations and thanks to all of our volunteers for their work throughout what has been a very busy year.
Peer Support Training
May saw the Peer Support Team keeping busy with training their new volunteers. Over 24 hours of Peer Mentor training and 18 hours of Peer Assisted Learning training over 600 new Peer Support volunteers have been prepared for their roles.
The Peer Mentor training focussed on defining what it means to be a Peer Mentor and how best to help new students settle into university. Along with the drawing of penguins, the new Peer Mentors thought about what it means to be inclusive, thinking about the obstacles their mentees might be facing, while also learning about the different ways get involved.
PAL training covered the theory of Peer Assisted Learning and its history, before moving on to practising running mock PAL sessions and getting everyone to learn something new. At one of these mock PAL sessions we got to learn about different kinds of biscuits, while at another we learnt about differentiation.
A very big well done to everyone who attended training to become a Peer Support volunteer, we look forward to working with you!
Rep & Mentor Week 2017
Each year Programme Reps had a week to celebrate their hardwork and achievements. However, since Peer Support's volunteers have grown in numbers so rapidly, we thought it would be wrong not to celebrate their endeavours as well. That's why 2017 saw the first ever Rep and Mentor Week, or as it came to be known Rep vs Mentor week.
It became so-called as the week saw various competitions pitting 'Team Rep' and 'Team Mentor' against each other, such as photo competitions, conferences and promotional campaigns.
The week also included Peer Support T-shirt day, which saw Peer Mentors in their T-Shirts all over campus and a conference aimed at giving Reps and Mentors the chance to share their experiences from their role.
Even VC Bob got involved, joining in on the fun by throwing his support behind Team Mentor, though I'm sure he's proud of the work that Programme Reps are doing also!
Pass/PAL Conference 2016
From Friday 4th until Sunday 6th your Peer Support Team, including two student delegates, attended the annual PAL Conference; hosted this year by Bournemouth University.
Alongside delegates from other 30 universities, the students attended a variety of workshops about PAL, including one about integrating technology into learning facilitation. Significantly, they were able to share their experiences of running PAL sessions with their counterparts from around the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe and work together to come up with creative new ways to enhance PAL at Loughborough.
Meanwhile, the staff attended a number of sessions on a variety of topics; one such session covered how to better cater for disabled students in PAL sessions and another the solutions that each institution has come up with to overcome common obstacles facing PAL administration. Additionally, a number of Unversities brought with them their Peer Support Interns, who together founded an international Peer Support Intern Network intended to provide support to those working in the sector.
Coming away from this conference, our volunteers said that they now better realise that “it’s not about our subjects, PAL is special because of the relationships we build and the skills we share.” Certainly, Loughborough is a leading institution when it comes to Peer Support, but it’s important to remember that there’s much to be gained by building relationships with other universities and sharing our experiences with each other.
Wolfson Mentoring Event
Monica Hristova, wolfson's Peer Mentor Student Coordinator, organised an event for her department's Peer Mentors to get together and share their experiences. She had the the following to say:
"After the induction week I received a quite mixed feedback from mentors, but I noticed that they were either dealing with the same problems or they had similar positive experience. In our department, it is a practice to hold fortnightly programme rep meetings which is something I wanted to implement in the Peer Mentoring scheme as well as it is the first year Wolfson has been involved in it. We held a group meeting on 19th October. It was quite difficult to book a slot when everybody is available but the turn out was still good. We had more than half of the people attending with the rest of the mentors informing me beforehand for the reasons of their absence. On the meeting every mentor had a turn in sharing their experience of the initial meeting and the communication with their mentor group afterwards. It was a great way not only to spot problems that need solving but also to share good practice between the mentors. This was followed by a brainstorming discussion on events we can do during the year and ways to communicate more efficiently with the mentees. After the meeting I sent an email to the mentors that were absent, briefing them on what they missed and asking them to reply telling me about their experience as well. It was both really informative and enjoyable and as a result we managed to organise staff coordinated mentor assistance within their first project for the year."
Mentor-Mentee Meet Ups
The week beginning October 3rd saw the first of the over twenty events, organised by our Peer Mentor Student Coordinators, specifically for the purpose of first year students meeting their mentors. Ranging from meet and greets, to quizzes, to coffee mornings, to departmental tours, and even a treasure hunt, the meet-ups were successful in engaging our new first years with Peer Mentoring and the Peer Support scheme. It was fantastic to see the many conversations between new and experienced students and it hopefully created the chance for that dialogue to continue as the academic year progresses!
Chris Dunne-Wragg, our Maths Student Coordinator, organised a treasure hunt in which mentoring groups had to solve maths questions to identify their next building/checkpoint in a race to win prizes. He says that “the meet up went really well… the treasure hunt was a success with all the students finding the buildings within the hour and discovering why each building was useful”.
Of course, none of these events could have been possible without the commitment of our peer mentors. We thank you for your hard work and commitment to the scheme.
Peer Support Lunch
On October 12th, we invited our Student Coordinators to lunch with the staff members who sit on the Peer Support Project group. Over a buffet lunch, the coordinators were able to communicate their ideas and first-hand experiences of mentoring and running PAL sessions, as well as meet their fellow coordinators.
Conversation varied, ranging from volunteer’s thoughts on Peer Support, to comparing mentor-mentee meet ups, to what the staff felt they could do to further our volunteer’s efforts in supporting their fellow students and how impressed everyone was with the food on offer.
Moving forward, we know that these informal exchanges over lunch have improved the relations between those who oversee Peer Support and those delivering it. The University have shown that they are happy to listen to the ideas of students regarding Peer Support, so if you have an idea about how to improve the scheme make sure to let your Student Coordinator know!
Peer Support Attends the 2016 RAISE Conference.
On the 8th and 9th September 4 Peer Support Volunteers from Loughborough attended RAISE’s Annual Conference. RAISE stands for Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement and this year the conference explored “Excellence in Student Engagement”. There was over 100 presentations at the conference from a wide range of staff and students connected to Higher Education around the UK.
It was a brilliant opportunity for the volunteers to develop their skills for the upcoming year, network with other institutions and perhaps most importantly see the important work done by Peer Support Volunteers here at Loughborough in a larger context whilst understanding the incredible impact they can effect on their own and other student’s experience at University.
Ryan Stevens, the Sports Peer Mentor Student Coordinator commented “for me the best presentation from the conference was the public speaking section, it gave me a lot of pointers on how to help my public speaking for next year. It was nice to talk to other universities as well and see what they did to promote student engagement, while noticing that all universities also had similar issues on the matter.”
Emily Bacon, Peer Assisted Learning Student Coordinator for Chemistry furthered, "I found the RAISE conference to be interesting and enlightening, particularly into a lecturer's perspective on student engagement. I found that being a student meant I was able to understand the behaviour that prohibited complete engagement in lectures. Recognising this behaviour will help me to plan Peer Assisted Learning sessions myself that encourage maximum participation. The big question asked in the conference was 'What is student engagement?' and I think I decided on an answer. I believe student engagement is down to communication. Communication between peers, staff and students and the university as a whole. With this in mind, I aim to start a dialogue between students and their PALFs to improve the attendance of students and therefore getting them engaged with the help available."
It is really exciting to see students making strategies for Peer Support as a result of the conference, Amy Haynes a Peer Assisted Learning Student Coordinator for the School of Art noticed how our PAL sessions this year have an incredible potential to create a sense of community for our students:
“In many of the talks at RAISE the speakers expressed the academic benefits of peer assisted learning and the personal development of the peer mentors themselves. However, there was one point that seemed to stand out from this. This was the importance of community within education. A problem with community was first realised by one speaker’s university when one of their best graduate students confessed that they had seriously considered dropping out during their first year, having felt that they did not have any real friends and that they did not belong in higher education.
The idea of belonging can get lost in establishments such as university, where you are put into groups like classes, where an individual’s sense of belonging is often assumed. Yet, belonging does not just mean being in a group, its definition entails being a contributory member, something hard to generate in a lecture hall or seminar. This made me think of the setup of PAL sessions and how the students contribute and help one another forming a community within the academic system. I think that this community feeling may be a big reason why peer schemes like PAL have been academically successful, as the students are part of a group where their input is valued and reciprocated. Therefore, this not just contributes to their grades through increasing effort, but also helps the students make connections with each other.”
For our Peer Support Department, attending the conference proved a fantastic way to reflect on our incredible volunteers and the important work they do to improve the Loughborough student experience. RAISE 2016 was a fantastic opportunity to generate even more ideas on how we can support and improve our schemes and create successful Peer Support for the coming academic year.
Peer Support at the LAA’s
The Loughborough Academic Awards were held on 19th May. Hosted by the VP Education Kailey Hazeldene it was a fantastic evening celebrating the successes of the past academic year and sharing many of the outstanding learning experiences across the University.
There was an exceptionally strong field of nominations for the Peer Support Volunteer of the Year Award and The Peer Support Group would like to congratulate Rob Forster for his win. Rob was recognised for his contributions to advocating Peer Assisted Learning within the Earth System Science module for Geography.
Geography was victorious again where, later on in the evening Dr Richard Hodgkins won an award for ‘Champion of Peer Support.’ His contribution to the scheme in his Academic Champion role was acknowledged to be “crucial” and from promoting the scheme to students, supporting the student Facilitators and his conversations with other academic staff, he really is a worthy winner.
VC and Professor Rice Join PAL!
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Bob Allison, and Professor Stephen Rice from the Department of Geography joined first year Geography students and facilitated a one-off PAL session. This was incredibly beneficial to the students who were able to develop their knowledge upon the topic of Earth System Science, learn from the Professors’ experience and achievements and also see that the benefits of Peer Assisted Learning are endorsed and valued by the University.