Integrated learning communities as a peer support initiative for first year university students

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Abstract

Peer Mentoring schemes tend to be developed as retention strategies, however, they can also serve other purposes (psychosocial or career-related). However, evidence of the effectiveness of these presents mixed results and less is known about the horizontal peer support schemes which may help students capitalize on existing peer relationships. We developed an integrated learning communities (ILC) peer support scheme, building on the theoretical principles of social identity theory, which we embedded within our existing teaching framework and designed functional activities. Collective activities were undertaken to promote the processes of social identity with the intention that these may foster social and academic integration experiences. This intervention was undertaken with an entire cohort of first year undergraduate psychology students. We conducted semi-structured interviews with a self-selected sample of these students (N = 17). Thematic analysis revealed two main themes, each with two sub-themes. These were: “Divergent Experiences” with the sub-themes of “dependent on people” and “types of support”, and “Good idea in principle” with the sub-themes of “Theory ≠ Practice” and “Dependent on student engagement”. Although identifying with a peer group was not transparent in the interviews, the existence of a peer support scheme was perceived positively by students which might explain the success of the newly developed student-led Psychology Society. Indeed, this Psychology Society can provide a lasting framework for further amplification of the student voice. We conclude that our embedded ILC was both feasible and potentially valuable, but it is crucial for the peer support approach to have transactional significance.

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APA

Spiridon, E., Kaye, L. K., Nicolson, R. I., Ransom, H. J., Tan, A. J. Y., & Tang, B. W. X. (2020). Integrated learning communities as a peer support initiative for first year university students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 50(7), 394–405. https://doi.org/10.1111/jasp.12668

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