The 9th Annual PASS/PAL Leader Conference 2018 took the PAL Team and their student delegates to the University of Manchester. This yearly conference, which was held at BU in 2016, brings Peer Assisted Learning schemes from multiple institutions throughout the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Denmark together. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Empowering Leaders of the Future: Who Will We Bee?’ which allows us the opportunity to empower and prepare students for the exciting, dynamic world of Higher Education and ever-changing Global market.
The weekend entailed a number of interesting workshops, team challenges and speakers. Our experience from the conference will allow us to continue to improve BU’s PAL Scheme, as we’ve come back home with innovative ideas and newly developed skills.
We would like to say a huge thank you to this year’s hosts, the University of Manchester, for organising a fantastic weekend. Also, a special thanks to our BU students, Annika Eze, Rowan Bratchell and Thu Hang Nguyen, for representing BU and our PAL Scheme so brilliantly. Upon their return from Manchester, they have written reflective blog posts about the amazing and inspiring time they had the conference. They have also made PAL session plans using the knowledge and experience they gained at the conference, which other PAL Leaders can use as inspiration!
Below is a few thoughts our students had about the conference and a picture diary of our weekend to share our experience with everyone at BU, so feel free to have a look through!
Aimee Fish, Peer Learning Officer
Jess Leverton, Peer Assisted Learning Intern
BU PAL Conference Team
What our students had to say about their time at Manchester...
What did you most enjoy about the conference?
Annika: The empowerment it gave. To show how you can use your strengths and weaknesses to an advantage. The people. Lovely atmosphere and camaraderie that the Staff and Students showed. To include everyone. No division between universities. Nice to have something in common and a common goal to work towards.
Hang: The conference welcomed us with its own participants, we were quickly teamed up with other PAL Leaders from Ireland, Sweden and all across UK. All the tiredness from the long trip were replaced with warm, inspiring connections between all PAL Leaders, and it were friendships that we found it hard to part with when leaving the city for Bournemouth.
Rowan: Aside from meeting other people and making friends, I think my favourite parts were learning about other PAL schemes, the mindset workshop, and the creative pitch challenge. It was really interesting to hear what Peer Support/Peer Learning schemes are like at universities from all across the country, and even some from Sweden! There seems to be such a variety in the form PAL takes, and I feel like I can learn a lot from these differences.
What skills do you feel you have developed from attending the conference?
Annika: Personal confidence and the ability to brush off trivial comments made by others. A direct focus for my future. Confidence in myself and to be proud of who I am. Encouragement that I am on the right track.
Hang: After three days, I probably took home with me some good honey – confidence and nice ideas to run PAL sessions.
Rowan: The conference helped me develop my ability to think and act pragmatically, in the face of an ever-changing educational world. I also learned the importance of challenging my fixed mindset. I feel like I can now push my mindset and remind myself that intelligence and skills are always open to be developed through learning and experience. The mindsets workshop also helped me to begin identifying the barriers and triggers that I experience that cause me to have negative or unhelpful mindsets, and this is the first step in me working to improve in these areas.
How do you plan to implement these into your own sessions as a PAL Leader?
Annika: Include everyone. Even if they don’t feel comfortable but to find ways that they can communicate and contribute to the sessions. The loudest, confident people usually dominate the sessions. So, to be weary of that. Focus on the student as a whole to empower them to be well rounded individuals.
Hang: The PAL Conference was run like no other conference, which means it is operated by the spirit of facilitation, where participants worked together to generate knowledge in the Pollination lab about Popular Culture, or where a PAL Leader shared her idea about Ripple Effect in helping students understand the unit – participants do the work! In such a sharing atmosphere, it was amazing to see so many other PASS/PAL/SI Leaders shared the same difficulties as I had when sessions did not go well, as well as the beautiful moments when we could help out students, but we were all so passionate to put our best into every session.
Rowan: I would really like to run a wellbeing session, so I will be discussing this with the other PAL Leader I run sessions with to see if we both agree on its importance. I’m also working on a session plan based around personal and professional development. This would include what I learned in the mindset workshop, as well as things like identifying your strengths and weaknesses, motivation and confidence.
Once we returned to Bournemouth from the conference, we challenged our leaders to create plans for a PAL session based on what they had learned. Each leader had original ideas and different ways to implement them. Find out more below...
Annika's Session Plan
Before we headed to the conference, Manchester gave us the task of creating a collaborative Instagram post about PAL at BU with our fab PAL Leaders: Annika, Hang and Rowan.
This included getting to know a bit about our leaders, their thoughts on their conference and their individual experiences of being a PAL Leader at BU! We choose to do this in a fun and interactive way.
You can view our Instagram competition entry here!
At Bournemouth University, we pride ourselves on our widespread reach of PAL support across all undergraduate programmes. One of our main focuses this year has been engagement and interactivity. With a new programme of additional enhancement workshops for our PAL Leaders and some big changes to our training delivery this year, we hope to make 2018-19 the most engaging year yet for BU PAL! Our students are at the heart of everything we do, and as well as supporting their development, we place massive value on ensuring our Leaders feel prepared to facilitate their sessions effectively by using a range of interactive techniques, discussions and activities to achieve their outcomes!
What inspiration/ideas have you taken from the conference?
Annika: That everyone has good ideas even if they are quiet people. That to give the people who are shy or lack confidence- a voice. Not to judge people so quickly but get to know them. To enrich people as people as well. Life skills that are needed. Not just focussing sessions on the degree units.
Hang: Along the way, we picked up some useful knowledge that the conference had to offer… from the future! We learnt about Strength Profile to better understand ourselves in terms of Being, Communicating, Motivating, Relating and Thinking; we learnt about Growth Mindset to encourage others; finally, we learnt about how our generation is different from the other, and how that difference is going to shape the future.
Rowan: On the final day there were some options to choose from, and I chose to attend a session on integrating wellbeing into PAL sessions. This probably had the biggest lasting impression on me, as wellbeing and mental health are super important to me. I took away from this session some interesting ideas about how I could integrate wellbeing into my PAL sessions. Beyond this, it also re-ignited my idea of having an on-going collaboration between the Mental Health Zone within the Students’ Union, and PAL.
What 3 things did you not know before you went to the conference?
Annika: That you should work towards a growth mindset. Develop,’ colour outside the lines as so to speak.’ Be honest- “I am finding this hard.” Find ways to improve your knowledge in a way that suits you. Don’t compare yourself- it is your own journey. Empower the people around you an in-PAL session.
Hang: One of the thing that impressed me the most is the PASS scheme in Manchester University, they see PASS not as individual sessions but as a big community of more than 800 Leaders with Debrief, scoring scheme (where Leaders competes to get marks and win a prize at the end of each month), and multiple trainings. Apart from being on tasks with day-long activities, SI Leaders from Sweden gently surprised us with Fika – an essential tea break where you must stop working to share with your friends and colleagues a cup of tea/coffee and cake, it allows a pause from work to socialize and connect through what we all enjoy. From this experience, I started to see PAL as something larger, more connected, beyond the small sessions that we had every week.
Rowan: I did not know anything about the history and origins of Peer Assisted Learning - I assumed it was a relatively modern development, but its been around and developing in other forms for much longer. I also didn’t know how much PAL varies between different universities - I met students who put in about 5 times as many hours as me per week without getting paid for it! Another thing I hadn’t really thought about much before was the future of higher education. As someone who wants to go into academic research and teaching, it is important that I am aware of the changing world and demographics of universities. It has given me a lot to think about in terms of ensuring I fit into a world that doesn’t exist quite yet, but is already developing.
If you could summarise the conference in one sentence, what would it be?
Annika: A once in a life time experience that forges your future goals and develops a way of thinking to help and encourage others.
Hang: The PAL Conference was a fun, sharing, and eye-opening experience with tons of memories in Manchester.
Rowan: The conference was a really fun and interactive experience with endless opportunities to learn, develop skills, and challenge yourself.