Web site logical path: [www.psy.gla.ac.uk] [~steve] [localed] [PAL] [this page]
Papers available on the web offer useful perspectives on PAL. Two useful starting points are the collected pointers at  and .
PAL was introduced (it is said) in 1973 in the USA at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which is still using it. By now nearly 60% of research-oriented universities like Glasgow in the USA offer it to at least some undergraduates ( http://www.brevard.edu/fyc/Survey/Curricular/c12.pdf). It entered the UK in 1990 at Kingston university, and at least 12 UK universities other than Glasgow have introduced it so far.
There are some results reporting objectively measured benefits. The chemistry department at University of Manchester introduced PAL in 1995. Their failure rate on the first year course has dropped from 20% to 10%. Analysing their 1997-8 results showed that mean exam results rose with degree of attendance at PAL (47% for non-attenders, 52% for occasionals, 61% for those attending 6 or more of the 14 sessions); and that this association was independent of the students' inherent ability as measured by entry point scores . Similar marked effects on exam scores are reported for 1998 at the University of Queensland , and at Kingston  in the computer science area.
It is clear from the literature that attendance is low, and often very low in the early years. In Chemistry at Manchester , average attendance at a given session / week was 14% in the first year of introduction, 33% the next year, then 44% and 48% in the fifth year. At UCL (University College London) in the first year of introduction in 5 departments, average attendance can be estimated from  to have varied between 1% and 27%. Low takeup is also mentioned at Bournemouth  and Kingston  which discusses it at some length.
Another less useful but more common way of reporting attendance is in terms of the percentage of students attending at least one session. At Manchester in 1997-8 that would be 79% . At Kingston  on their BCS (computing science) course, it was in successive years 39%, 68%, and 84%. At UCL in maths in the first year it was 35%. At UCL in the first year of introduction in 5 departments, it ranged from 11% to 45% across four departments . A fifth department achieved 82% but this was due to it being marketed (by students) as a mystery product: only 34% came to more than two sessions. Similar figures are reported in the USA.
Attendance does not always increase year by year as "word of mouth" spreads. The figures at Kingston  grew strongly in computing science, but fell on some other courses.
Practices for group size vary a lot. Queensland uses 2 facilitators and 25 (max -- probably much less on most occasions) students per group . UCL uses 2 facilitators and perhaps 30 but more usually 5 students per group . Manchester uses 2 facilitators and 5-8 students per group .
Paying for facilitators: According to  the USA model is to pay them but also to require them to attend several first year lectures per week as part of their preparation, where it is a tutoring model rather than a peer discussion one. In the UK, practice is mixed between paying and not paying (i.e. volunteer model). From the papers referred to here, we can say that Queensland does pay, but UCL and Manchester do not pay their student facilitators. According to the conference notes for "the 9th annual supplemental instruction conference" for UK PAL sites held in 2002 in Winchester:
The contributions of department versus outside units in organising PAL varies a lot, though this is not discussed in detail in the literature. At Sussex, PAL is run by an independent unit . At Manchester, they use a trainer from outside the university, otherwise the organisation is all done within the department. At UCL, a central unit promoted it and organised it, but the mixed results in different departments seems to be associated with variable departmental input and enthusiasm. At Kingston it seems to be centrally promoted.
At the other end of the scale, it doesn't seem to be so overwhelmingly beneficial that departments and universities feel they must adopt it. It depends on your theory of institutional change in universities whether you see this as evidence that PAL brings only a small advantage, or that academics resist all change fiercely (they haven't however blocked rather rapid adoption of the WWW, or data projectors). One might estimate from these broad indications that PAL has a definite net benefit because few if any have abandoned it once established (unlike many innovations, entropy is not strong enough to kill it), but only a small one since it doesn't seem to spread rapidly without special promotors being active.
 National PAL site, hosted at Bournemouth  Papers on PAL at UCL  Coe,E.M., McDougall,A.O. and McKeown,N.B. (1999) "Is Peer Assisted Learning of benefit to undergraduate chemists?" University Chemical Education Vol.3, No.2 pp.72-75 [WWW document]. URL http://www.rsc.org/pdf/uchemed/papers/1999/32_coe.pdf (visited 2004, Oct 10).
 Julia Playford , Valda Miller & Barbara Kelly (1999) Peer assessed Study Program (PASS)
 Bidgood, P. (1994) "The success of Supplemental Instruction: The Statistical evidence" Helping students to learn from each other: Supplemental Instruction (pp. 71-79). Birmingham, England: Staff and Educational Development Association
 Maureen Donelan (?) Introducing Supplemental Instruction (S.I) at University College London (UCL): A Case Study
 University of Sussex, CASA: a conference and project management service based in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex.
 PAL project, Bournemouth University (?) Activities and Tools for PAL Sessions
 Maureen Donelan (UCL) & Peter Kay (UCLAN) (?) Supplemental Instruction: Students Helping Students' Learning at University College London (UCL) and University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)
 Evaluation of Year One and PAL Leader Perspective and Experience of PeerAssisted Learning at Bournemouth University
[10.2] Implementation of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) at Bournemouth University PAL Project evaluation of progress up to 15/11/02
 King, P. (1994). "Supervision of Supplemental Instruction leaders: A practical guide" In C. Rust, & J. Wallace (Eds.), Helping students to learn from each other: Supplemental Instruction (pp. 37-39). Birmingham, England: Staff and Educational Development Association
Web site logical path:
[Top of this page]