The potential of peer assisted learning as a tool for facilitating social and academic integration

Emmeline Byl, Katrien Struyven, Bieke Abelshausen, Pieter Meurs, Tom Vanwing, Nadine Engels, Koen Lombaerts


Research into the transition of first year students in higher education (HE) confirms that student integration into the academic community is a primary condition for student success (Borglum & Kubala, 2000; Tinto & Pusser, 2006; Tovar, Simon & Lee, 2009; Stebleton, Soria & Huesman, 2014). It is also crucial that it is combined with peer support if students are going to settle into university life (Hamshire, Jack, Prowse, & Wibberley, 2015a). This article seeks to explore the potential value and purposes of peer assisted learning (PAL) as a tool to increase the social and academic integration of first year university students. Focus group interviews (n=16) were conducted between the spring and autumn of 2013 with first-year students (n=93) enrolled in the Faculty of Educational Sciences (Psychology and Educational sciences) at the Free University of Brussels. By using the method of appreciative inquiry (AI), respondents suggested that peer-assisted learning methods are important tools for enhancing social and academic integration.à In this sense, tutoring and mentoring need to address specific criteria on at least two organisational dimensions (Topping & Ehly, 2001):à(a) objectives of the subject and (b) contact installation. This article aims to prompt further discussion on the potential, value and purposes of peer-assisted learning programmes for integration.


peer support, peer learning, peer learning schemes, peer-assisted learning, social and academic integration, transition, student success, qualitative research, appreciative inquiry, first year students

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ISSN: 1759-667X