What did you do to create inclusive practice and how did you do it?
PASS (locally branded Peer Assisted Student Success) is a peer-learning programme supported collaboratively by the University Library’s Skills Team and academic departments. PASS typically involves more experienced students (as trained PASS Leaders) facilitating student learning and communities in timetabled study sessions. We provide two days of training for PASS Leaders to help them develop the skills to encourage students to consider topics they would like to cover, and to explore these in detail in learning activities specifically designed for PASS. This means students have support where they need it most and can cover both specific areas of a course and more generic study skills. PASS Leaders do not teach, but are instead trained in facilitation techniques that help promote discussion and interaction among the students. At Hull, we operate an ‘opt out’ approach, which means all students on the specified module will have PASS scheduled into their timetable. This approach encourages inclusion and reduces barriers to participation. In addition, those students have the opportunity to become PASS Leaders themselves in subsequent years. We operate a self-selecting recruitment process, meaning that students put themselves forwards for the role. Our ethos is to encourage participation in PASS as much as possible.
Why did you implement your example of inclusive practice?
PASS has been found to have several benefits for students, staff and the wider institution. For example, PASS appears to cultivate course communities (Hilsdon, 2014), enhance student motivation and reduce learning difficulties (Tu & Chiang, 2016), as well as improving equity in diverse cohorts (Dancer et al., 2016). These findings suggest that PASS can be beneficial in multiple ways, offering benefits to a wide range of students and subject areas with diverse challenges.
Initially established at Hull in 2011, PASS has evolved significantly since it was first implemented. One such example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in PASS being delivered online, both to students and in terms of the support and training offered to the PASS Leaders. Online peer learning can enable flexibility in learning approaches and encourage participation (Raymond et al., 2016). This adaptation of the PASS model has meant that it can be delivered flexibly, thus opening opportunities in subject areas with placements, where students are not all on campus at the same time. Consequently, in September 2021, the Library Skills Team embarked on an advocacy campaign to widen the number of students and subject areas that PASS could reach. This involved gaining support from a senior level, securing interest from academic colleagues, and liaising with professional service colleagues where needed to support its implementation
What was the impact of your case study?
We have collected feedback from students attending PASS, who’ve commonly expressed how useful it had been to ask questions, obtain support and connect with other students on the course. This feedback suggests that PASS helped students to feel a sense of community with people on their programme; to transition to life at university; to improve their understanding of the subject content of their course and to be an independent learner. Overall, the feedback indicates that PASS has had a positive impact on their studies and experience at University. In the academic year 2021/22, just two academic areas were implementing PASS and we wanted to expand the programme to offer the benefits of PASS to a wider group of students. The advocacy campaign prompted a total of 17 academic areas to express an interest in PASS, and in 2022/23,10 of these are now implementing PASS sessions, with a range of delivery models including both in person and online. This has resulted in an increase of PASS Leaders from 6 to 39 for the academic year 2022/23, and more than doubled the number of students who can access PASS, from approximately 600 students in 2021/22 to approximately 1500 students in 2022/23. Plans are underway to further expand the reach of the programme for 2023/24, whilst ensuring it remains sustainable in its design and approach.
What were the lessons learned?
Our training receives positive feedback, but we are hoping to improve inclusivity by further developing the section on ‘dealing with difficult situations’, discussing how to adapt activities to accommodate reasonable adjustments. Revisions to the initial student feedback form will in turn allow students to disclose any required adjustments. It is worth the hard work to overcome logistical challenges. For example, timetabling PASS can be difficult but the alternative is to run an ‘opt in’ programme that significantly reduces student attendance and benefits. To help recruit sufficient PASS leaders, it is useful to work closely with academic staff to understand their students and remove barriers to participation. Cultivating effective working relationships with staff, students and PASS Leaders is, likewise, essential to a successful, inclusive and engaging PASS programme.