Peer support for 1st year Informatics students.
PALS stands for Peer Assisted Learning Scheme. PALS is a system of student-to-student support where new university students are supported in their studies by later-year students (PALS leaders/facilitators). The student-led PALS session is where peer-assisted learning 'happens'. Students set the agenda for the session, and work together to get the most out of the experience. Guided and supported by the PALS leaders, each session is a chance for students to share any questions, problems or worries - academic or otherwise - within an informal, friendly and supportive environment.
PALS leaders can be undergraduate students in their second, third, fourth, (or fifth) year of an Informatics degree, but are most frequently in their second year. Importantly, leaders do not teach - they do not give answers, but instead aim to guide students to the answers for themselves (this is called facilitation). Leaders might offer advice, or help with skills such as revision and exam techniques, but will not give specific answers to questions on course content. Their job is to help students to be effective at collaborative but independent learning. In other words leaders help students 'learn how to learn', particularly within the context of group study.
The first Semester of university can be a scary time, but with the friendship and support of fellow students, it doesn't have to be. PALS aims to support new university students through the transition to Higher Education, whilst developing their learning and study strategies such as exam and revision techniques. In this way, PALS aims to ease both the academic and social transition into university life.
Peer-assisted learning schemes have been shown to work, and are growing throughout many universities in the UK and the world, across many disciplines.
In particular, first year and second year direct entry Informatics students taking Mathematics courses are likely to also benefit from MathPALS.
All new Informatics students taking INF1-CL and INF1-FP have the opportunity to attend InfPALS sessions throughout Semester 1. Over 50 students attended InfPALS sessions last year, and the feedback was so positive that the scheme has been expanded this year to accommodate even more students. In last year's feedback survey, 83% of respondents reported that InfPALS helped them "connect to other students, and/or adjust to [their] first year at uni", and 73% of respondents said PALS had helped them with "general Informatics skills" either "substantially" or "quite a bit".
It is clear that on any course we learn as much from working through things with one another as we do from formal classes. But sometimes we are not always clear about how to work through things with one another. What is important? Who do I ask? What must I understand and what should I leave until later? How do I ensure we don't all just propagate incorrect information?InfPALS is there to help facilitate learning from one another. It shows how to ask the right questions, and how to know what you know and what you don't.
There are many benefits to attending InfPALS sessions:
Further selected quotes from previous InfPALS students:
First year first semester InfPALS is about easing the transition from high school into university. It is a chance to meet new people, become comfortable in the university setting, and learn vital study skills to help you through your whole degree.
As of this year InfPALS has expanded into semester 2, exclusively for 2nd year students.
When entering Honours there are a lot of informatics related skills a CS student is expected to have picked up which they may not have been 'explicitly' taught during their first two years at university. These include things such as version control, LaTeX, UNIX command line, etc.
InfPALS in semester two will run 2-hour long workshops every other week (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) covering a total of 5 topics throughout the semester of vital informatics peer-led skills workshops. Each workshop will be run multiple times during the same week by different 2nd year ‘leaders’, where students will have the chance to explore the given topic and work together to understand the various possibilities each of these vital tools have. The ‘leaders’ will manage a productive group setting and facilitate good discussion with the goal of maximising the students’ learning of the given skill. They will prepare some hands-on activities to accomplish this goal.
The purpose of second year second semester InfPALS is to ease the transition into honours, and prepare the students for the challenges ahead by making them more familiar with all the tools and skills required to succeed.
As an InfPALS leader you are supported every step of the way - from your initial training through until your last session. You will generally lead sessions in pairs so you are not thrown into it alone, and you will be trained and well prepared before you co-lead your first session. As well as working with your fellow leaders, you are also guided and supported by the more experienced senior leaders. Senior leaders help with your initial training, and are available throughout the Semester to discuss any problems or issues that arise during your sessions. Senior leaders are also there to help you develop your skills as a leader, and will aim to provide you ongoing training and feedback. As a whole, the InfPALS scheme is supervised by a member of academic staff.
The time commitment is manageable, and after the initial training, you will spend about 3 hours a week on InfPALS for as long as the sessions are running. Per week, this is broken down to give 1 hour for session planning, 1 hour for the session itself, and 1 hour per week for a 'debriefing' session, where leaders come together to share session plans, leading techniques, and to discuss and resolve any problems encountered during sessions. The more time you put in, the more you get out of it, but during busy times later in the Semester, you will have gained enough experience to be able to plan sessions quickly, and manage your time effectively.
There are many benefits to being an InfPALS leader:
Selected quotes from previous InfPALS leaders:
Please sign up with the link below. We will advertise InfPALS at INF2B and INF2D lectures during Week 1.
Semester 2 InfPALS sessions take place during weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. There are several sessions each week; all take place in Appleton Tower, and at different times Monday-Friday. All sessions last 2 hours. When you sign up you can choose the time that best suits your timetable (subject to availability). The sessions are run in either room 5.04 or 5.08 depending on the day, the room allocation for each session time is clear on the sign up poll.
Unfortunately, sign-ups for InfPALS leader are now closed as enough leaders have been selected to cover all sessions. Thank you to all those who applied.
In 2017/18, InfPALS is jointly led by Hanne Carlsson and Jano Horvath. We would love to hear from you! Feel free to email one of us.