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Student-led learning opportunities

In this article, Nick outlines the various ways you may get involved in student-led learning opportunities.
three students writing on a whiteboard
© Alex Holland at the University of York

Learning is not just about listening to a lecturer speak or sitting alone working away on your laptop. Social interactions and relationships are incredibly important to learning and feeling connected to your course, department and university.

Learning together and from each other can be particularly inspiring and motivating! Interactions with other students, friends and university staff can positively influence the breadth and depth of student learning, but also other outcomes such as critical thinking, communication skills, empathy and leadership abilities.

Learning together can also make us feel part of a community. When we learn together we feel connected to others on our course, to our department and to our university. In turn, feeling connected can make us feel valued, respected and significant to other people.

Universities understand the importance of students feeling part of a community and they will often provide opportunities for students to interact, learn together and from each other. These opportunities often come in the form of peer-led learning or peer mentoring programmes, which are usually based within academic departments. These types of programmes can be incredibly valuable. They are opportunities for mutual learning, to get things wrong in a safe environment, to explore ideas and concepts through conversations with other students, and to learn more about yourself.

At the University of York for example, we have Student-led Learning Communities (SLLC), which bring together community-building programmes such as peer-assisted learning (PAL) and department community coordinators (DCCs). These programmes are based in departments and provide diverse opportunities for students to connect socially and academically.

The PAL programme offers students the opportunity to attend collaborative study groups with their peers, facilitated by trained second, third and/or fourth year students. These sessions are opportunities for students to reflect on content from their courses, but also develop new skills and make friends.

The DCC project involves paid student interns working with department staff, student societies and student reps to develop a range of activities designed to enable students to talk to each other, share their experiences and connect around shared interests.

Learning happens everywhere and can be particularly powerful when you integrate what you’re doing in the classroom with your experiences on and beyond campus. Take every opportunity you can to have meaningful conversations with other students, friends and staff in your department.

Over to you

Think back to a time when you learned with other students, how did it feel to learn together compared with learning on your own? How different are the two learning situations and which one do you think you would get more out of?

© University of York
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