Why I applied to be a PAL leader

Posted on

by Max, BA(Hons) Philosophy and PAL leader

Becoming a PAL Leader is about more than the added income, ability to undertake the ILM L3 in Effective Mentoring, or having some experience on your CV. It’s about having fun and making an impact with students who are going through the same thing you have just been through!

In this post I want to talk a bit more about the other sides of being a PAL Leader, that might not seem so obvious.

What do I do as a PAL leader?

What I really love about being a PAL Leader is how flexible the work is. At the end of the day, you’re there to help the students and facilitate their success at UWE.

This means that you help on a range of topics, from managing money, preparing for second year, or thinking about careers, on top of all the usual course-related content, like essay planning or even discussing particular books/topics as a group.

I have a handful of semi-planned sessions for some of the above key topics, but otherwise I will find out what my students want the following week and come prepared with a handful of resources – and maybe a toned back presentation (always using a Mentimeter where possible!) This means that outside of the timetabled session, there really isn’t much preparation required, as the training helps you deliver quality content and the rest of it comes from your experiences.
I haven’t had any other job quite like it. The flexibility truly makes it interesting, every single week.

Why did I apply?

  • For the chance to help students through things I struggled with. Ensuring that the next cohort get to enjoy all the tips and tricks that I picked up, through trial and error.
  • To make a positive impact and legacy on my course, ensuring the year below are going to enjoy the course just as much as I have – that’s where it’s really about applying your personal experience and sharing what you’ve learned with them.
  • To develop myself as a well-rounded individual. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to develop mentoring skills so early in your career, so this was a great introduction to that.

My favourite moments

During the uncertainty of the the last couple of years, it meant a lot to my students that I could facilitate a safe space for them to share and speak up, where they wouldn’t feel confident doing so in the larger lecturers/seminars.
There are both direct and indirect moments that you can help and an indirect one for me was getting their feedback about a particular extra-curricular session they had last term. I was able to take this and work with the lecturers to facilitate these sessions again this term. The students were very grateful that I went out of my way and helped arrange something that they wouldn’t have done themselves.

What have I learnt?

I’ve learned many great soft and hard skills as a PAL leader, while at the same time working and developing some skills I already picked up from previous jobs.

Organisation and the ability to be agile

The role taught me to plan a session in a matter of days and then successfully time manage within that session. It was also key to understand the balance of having enough material to fill an hour, but also not have too much that we can’t go off plan and discuss something completely different that the students want.
It’s also about not being phased if no one contributes, or if you don’t make it past the first planned exercise. As long as you can provide value to the students, then you have succeeded in that session.

Professionalism and responsibility

You’re a lifeline to students, who really value getting your insight. It’s not just about having a chat with them for an hour but delivering meaningful content that has a positive impact. And where necessary, signposting or flagging important issues to the relevant staff.

How to mentor, engage and lead classes

This is brilliant experience if you’re interested in a career in teaching but also great to show varied experience on your CV. I was able to work on my training skills from a previous job but now I can also show how I adapted them to a different setting and audience.

Thank you for taking some time to read my post, for more information on the PAL leader role check out the Be a PAL Leader web page and have a think if this is a role you can make your own and leave a lasting positive impact on fellow students.

You might not realise just how much you’ll enjoy!

The 2022/23 PAL Leader application window is now open until 1st May 2022.

Essay mills, ghost writing and contract cheating

Posted on

When your assignment deadlines are approaching many of you might receive spam emails from companies offering ‘advisory’ or ‘example’ essay services to help ease the pressure of deadline hand ins. Paying to use one of these services however is known as contract cheating.

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating is where a student pays someone else to write an essay for them and then submits it as their own. For example, a student might submit an assignment brief to a website, along with the deadline and decide what grade they would like to receive and will then pay accordingly. As with other assessment offences such as plagiarism and collusion, this is taken extremely seriously by the university and can have implications when a student is being assessed by an employer for professional suitability.

Contract cheating is becoming a real worry as it undermines the genuine efforts of other students. In addition, the companies or essay mills offering these services target stressed students with spam emails during the busiest hand in periods. There have also been examples of students being blackmailed by the companies for additional fees after assignments have been submitted. It is also likely that such activities will soon be criminalised in the UK.

The key therefore is to help the university identify these companies and the promotional emails they send out and to make you aware of the support options available to you should you feel as if there is no other alternative.

What to look out for

As mentioned, the company might claim that you’ll only be paying for a model or example essay but in the same breath guarantee the grade you ordered. When challenged, many of these companies state they never expect students to submit the essay. They might also quote testimonials from happy customers to try and normalise the service to suggest it isn’t cheating. They might also list clients from top universities to show it happens everywhere.

What to do if you’re feeling the pressure

We want to raise awareness and make sure that you know the options available to you so that you never feel the need to use one of these companies and jeopardise your experience of university. If you receive one of their emails do not respond and simply forward it to us via email. Our specialised team will block these emails from getting to students in the first place.

More importantly though, if you are feeling overwhelmed remember you can speak to one of your tutors if you have concerns about your course; we also have a wealth of study tools and wellbeing support to help you manage your deadlines, discuss your worries and get back on track.

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)

Posted on

by Jo Lewis, PAL Manager

You’ll probably notice something called ‘PAL’ on your timetable, or maybe you heard about it during Block Zero.

Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is a student-to-student support scheme which helps you with your transition to university, in particular:

  • engaging with your course
  • connecting with your peers
  • increasing your academic confidence and resilience
  • developing good study habits

Online PAL sessions are delivered by second and third students, known as PAL Leaders. They won’t be teaching you, but will facilitate interactive group study sessions giving you the opportunity to ask questions about university life, expectations, course content, online learning and much more!

You’ll also be able to share ideas about assignments, projects and exams – all this in a friendly and collaborative online learning environment. So don’t miss out, you never know, you may go on to be a PAL Leader in the future too!

If PAL doesn’t appear in your timetable and you would like to connect and collaborate with peers, why not attend our online Resilient U PAL sessions? For more information about these student-led sessions, view the Events Diary.

For more information, visit our PAL webpage.

Back to top