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PAL Academic Course Contact Guide: What is PAL?

This is a guide created by the Central PAL Team that provides information and advice on being a PAL Academic Course contact.

What is PAL? 


Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a scheme that fosters cross-year support between students on the same course. PAL encourages Level 4 students to support each other and to learn collaboratively under the guidance of trained students, called PAL Leaders, from the year above. 

PAL sessions take place on average once a week and should be planned, structured and friendly. 

PAL has five main aims and is intended to help students:

  • Adjust quickly to university life

  • Acquire a clear view of course direction and expectations

  • Develop their independent learning and study skills to meet the requirements of higher education

  • Enhance their understanding of the subject matter of their course through collaborative group discussion

  • Prepare better for assessed work and exams.

Facilitators Not Teachers

PAL Leaders are not there to provide students with the answers, but instead are there to facilitate. PAL is not a substitute for attending programme lectures and seminars. PAL students may need reminding or reiterating that PAL Leaders are not there to provide answers to questions in the same way a lecturer would, particulalrly as some students may become over-reliant on their PAL Leader. 

PAL Leaders should not be providing their own assignments as examples as they can then be held accountable if the wrong information is given (e.g. due to changes to the unit, marking criteria etc) or can lead to issues with plagiarism.

As a Facilitator, PAL Leaders should be guiding the process, helping students to find answers to their questions for themselves through group discussion, re-direction and effective sign posting.

PAL Leaders are paid for 30 minutes of preparation time per 1 hour PAL session, to enable them to effectively plan how they will facilitate their sessions. 

PAL Leaders are expected to:

  • Offer weekly or fortnightly PAL sessions throughout the academic year as required by their course/programme

  • Plan PAL sessions that  facilitate group discussions, using a range of interactive small group learning activities and providing appropriate advice on independent learning, good study habits, and other learning strategies 

  • Maintain contact with members of their PAL Group and promote attendance at PAL sessions

  • Complete the PAL Leader Facilitation Course for PAL Leaders to prepare them for the role

  • Maintain a professional attitude on issues such as confidentiality and student complaints

  • Ensure that registers are kept up to date over both semesters

  • Submit pay claims by the 1st of each month with corresponding registers for each session , keeping a record of the hours that have been claimed for to avoid duplication
  • Communicate any problems to both the Central PAL Team and the PAL Academic Course Contact

What is PAL at BU?

Expectations of PAL

PAL is: PAL is not:

Facilitated by PAL Leaders as an opportunity for engagement, participation and collaboration 

Taught by PAL Leaders, creating a dependency from PAL students  

Helping students to find the answers for themselves 


Helping students by providing them with the answers 

Consisted heavily of contribution from students 

Consisted heavily of contribution from PAL Leaders 

Planned, structured and prepared for whilst allowing a little flexibility 

‘Winging it’ or a lack of preparation, completely improvising on the day

Student-led, based upon the learning needs, wants and requests of the students 

Not dictated by BU academics, the Central PAL Team or other staff at BU 

A friendly and sociable experience where you build rapport with your students 

An impersonal experience where Leaders do not make the effort to get to know their group 

An inclusive and safe learning environment 

A place for judgement, or unkindness. Relevant only to certain students and not considerate of learning differences

Signposting students to support services, academic staff and learning materials 

Providing support yourself 

An opportunity to share ideas, using interactive activities, group work and discussion 

Relying heavily on Powerpoint or consisting of activities that are repetitive, unengaging or don’t allow everyone to get involved in some way 

Designated time set aside for student discussion, learning and questions 

24/7 support from PAL Leaders about anything