Working outside the box: breaking down barriers with a Learning Development Peer Mentor scheme




Peer learning is simply described as involving students from similar social groupings helping each other to learn (Topping, 2007). A recent document by the European Centre for Supplemental Instruction-Peer Assisted Study Sessions (SI PASS) (2019) highlighted that 32 universities in the UK provide a system of peer support, and these vary both in how they operate and their nomenclature: schemes could be framed as peer assisted learning, peer assisted study sessions or peer mentoring. Our aim was to create a supplementary, peer-led service which provides students with engaging, timely guidance and develops effective learning relationships based on parity and equality (Collier, 2015). We decided to use a similar approach to the Student Learning Assistant model of Price et al. (2019), where the Learning Development (LD) Mentors offer support to students from any disciplinary subject.

Eight students were recruited and funded to offer peer support to all students within the institution. All are current second and third year students who work four hours per week supplementing the LD provision via a daily drop-in as well as leading ongoing projects and tasks, including resource development and evaluation. A key driver is reaching students who do not currently use the LD provision by developing resources in physical spaces and digital platforms previously unused in our work (e.g. in student halls and using platforms like Discord and TikTok). We will offer a perspective on the benefits and issues encountered when working with LD mentors, evaluate how the role was co-created with the students and assess the impact it has had on wider student engagement.

Author Biographies

Sam Thomas, University of Northampton

Sam Thomas has worked as a Learning Development Tutor at the University of Northampton for the last five years. Prior to this she worked in academic and public libraries in a range of professional roles, including reader development, teaching digital literacy, and answering enquiries. Her current research interests include the role of language in teaching and learning, accessibility and inclusion in Learning Development, and working collaboratively with students and colleagues to develop effective study skills support.

Sheryl Mansfield, University of Northampton

Sheryl Mansfield is Head of Learning Development at University of Northampton (UON) and she has worked in the field for over five years. She has a teaching background and uses her diverse knowledge of pedagogy to facilitate practical and engaging sessions to help demystify academic skills. Externally, Sheryl is Chair of the Professional Recognition Working Group and a member of the ALDinHE Steering Group.


Collier, P. J. (2015) Developing effective student peer mentoring programs: a practitioner’s guide to program design, delivery, evaluation and training. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

European Centre for SI PASS (2019) ‘Status report for European SI/PASS/PAL – programmes’, European Centre for SI PASS. Available at: (Accessed: 20 February 2021).

Price, S. Wallace, K., Verezub, E and Sinchenko, E. (2018) ‘Student learning assistants: the journey from learning advice to creating community’, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(7), pp.914-928.

Topping, K. J. (2007) ‘Trends in Peer Learning’, Educational Psychology, 25(6), pp.631-645.




How to Cite

Thomas, S. and Mansfield, S. (2022) “Working outside the box: breaking down barriers with a Learning Development Peer Mentor scheme”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (25). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi25.971.