Wilson, Sarah, Prescott, J. and Greenwood, Katie (2013) Students as educators: a pilot study. Final report. Project Report. Higher Education Academy, London, UK.

This pilot project builds upon and evaluates innovative teaching methods in the Master of Pharmacy degree at
the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). In this pilot project, higher year students acted as facilitators
to first year students: ‘near-peer tutoring’ (see Bulte 2007). The student facilitators worked with students,
and alongside academic staff during existing timetabled teaching sessions. A mixed-methods approach was
used to evaluate how the teaching experience has impacted on teaching and learning for both ‘taught’ and
‘teaching’ students, and how it can enable the ‘teaching’ students to develop transferrable teaching skills for
practice and to be co-producers of aspects of the curriculum. Although this was a small pilot project, it has
provided a rich source of information, and a firm foundation to integrate further student involvement within
the teaching year.
This project draws on recent policy and theoretical work which emphasises the importance of student
engagement as both a necessary element of a valuable student experience, and as a counter-balance to the
increasing rhetoric of students as consumers (QAA 2012a; HEA 2010). Pedagogic theory emphasises the
importance of students as co-producers of knowledge, actively “engaged in a cooperative enterprise focused
on the production, dissemination and application of knowledge” (McCulloch 2009, p. 171). Knowledge
becomes embedded, and students move from surface to deep learners when fully engaged with the learning
process. As Fry et al. note, “learning best takes place in or related to a relevant context (to facilitate the
‘making of meaning’)” (2003, p. 22), and students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge
through the application to particular situations. In building a community of practice (Fry et al. 2003, p. 12),
that is, exposing students to variety of views, and encouraging speaking and listening around a topic, learning is
enhanced: “discussion of what is being learnt in a peer (small) group can be a powerful learning tool” (Fry et
al. 2003, p. 31). It is this concept of peer learning that informed the development of this project.

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