The European First Year Experience EFYE Conference and our Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS)

Students on the BSc Nursing Programme at St Helena’s Campus, recently went on a trip to Cork, Ireland to present at the European First Year Experience EFYE Conference with Erica Bellamy, Academic in the College of Health and Social Care and Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Associate and Dr Tamsin Bowers-Brown, Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching and Head of Pedagogic Practice at The University of Derby. The presentation was an interactive workshop for delegates to consider how their institutions could develop a successful Peer Assisted Learning Scheme, showcasing the success of our student-led scheme in nursing here at the University of Derby.

Please take a look at this video to see more about the trip, Cork as a vibrant and exciting city to visit and the fantastic learning and networking experiences from the EFYE 2019 conference #efye2019

Here are our blogs reflecting on the conference experience…

The European First Year Experience conference 2019 from a first year’s perspective!
 Our trip to Cork for the EFYE conference was an amazing experience, with around 400 delegates from 20 different countries discussing their ideas on how to enhance the first year experience. We had the opportunity to ask questions, explore & challenge new concepts through workshops and learn about HE systems in other countries.
We did our presentation and workshop on the first day and it went really well! We all worked together to deliver the idea of PALS to the attendees and we asked them build metaphorical constructions out of LEGOtm to represent the important factors needed for a successful PAL scheme. For example, one of the attendees thought the most important thing on their model was how the first and second year students share their different experiences. This was represented by Lego characters wearing different uniforms. We discussed how we could link our individual models together and if we had any reoccurring themes. It was interesting to see “barriers” on every model and we talked about the kinds of barriers students face.

Having the opportunity to represent the University of Derby and share my experience of PALS has not only increased my confidence, but also challenged my own perceptions on what first years need.
The three main things I took from this trip:

  1. Learning about methods of integrating and supporting first year students and exploring how different programmes, institutions and countries have vastly different needs.
  2. Learning what it means to work collaboratively to deliver a group presentation/workshop at a conference and realising the preparation & organisation involved.
  3. On a personal level, I considered a career in academia at the end of my first degree, but I did not feel ready at the time. After discussions with academics in Cork, I am glad I waited as I feel much more passionate about nursing and I feel that towards the end of this degree, I may be ready for the challenge!

Having only been at the University of Derby since March 2019, exploring Cork and working closely with Erica, Lotty, Mariame and Tamsin has made me feel like a valued member of the group and of the university.  The whole experience has been very memorable, educational and lots of fun. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and with this experience under my belt, I hope there will be more to come!

Emma Wattam: @emmajwattam

The European First Year Experience (EFYE) Conference in Cork, 2019.
The Cork EFYE trip was an invaluable experience, allowing myself, Mariame and Emma as students and also Erica and Tamsin as academic staff to discuss the First Year Experience of higher education with over 400 other academic staff from 20 countries. It was also great fun! On the first day of the conference following a workshop and key-note presentation our group delivered our workshop. I was so pleased with how our presentation went and was proud of us as a group for working together and relaying information about amazing Peer Assisted Learning Scheme and how it can benefit the first-year experience.

The EFYE conference has provided me with invaluable knowledge and ideas and the opportunity to work with different academic staff from other organisations in the future with the aim to improve the first year experience for students within the University of Derby.

Prior to the conference I did not believe that becoming involved academia would be part of my future, however, through networking and having conversations with a variety of different people from many different organisations including Erica and Tamsin, I have developed an interest in joining an academic team in the future. The trip helped me not only academically but also personally, I feel that I have gained important knowledge and ideas from a range of delegates and attendees of the conference but I have also developed friendships with Mariame and Emma and a strong working relationship with Erica and Tamsin who have provided myself, Emma and Mariame with many exciting opportunities which I am really looking forward to.

Charlotte (Lotty) Eaton: @lottyeaton

It was an amazing 3 days. I was so blessed to be part of the European first year experience (EFYE) conference held in Cork.

Absolutely marvellous experience to participate in the conference with over 300 delegates who shared a mutual interest in improving first years’ experience from institutions of 22 countries. I am delighted to have the opportunity to see the different perspectives that institutions have in student engagements and I was able to share my experience with them as well. Definitely it was a great honour to have keynote speakers Dr John N Gardner and Dr Betsy Barefoot from Gardner Institute, Professor Sally Kift of Australian teaching Fellows (ALTF).

During the 3 days conference the delegate and the PAL leaders including myself, Lotty, and Emma were able to plan and execute a presentation with Erica’s help. My first time presenting was quite nerve racking because it was completely different setting including of all people of all backgrounds were there waiting for us to present the idea of co-creation through building Lego.  The concept behind it was each participant to construct their own ideas of what it meant by co-creating PAL ideas then discuss in order to bring all the models in one big build and find out what the common theme was. The themes were barriers and worries of being first year student and then teamworking to get to the end goal. It was fascinating to see.

Part of my motivation for speaking/writing is that I find it a great way for me to learn. I anticipated that I would learn a few things here and there while preparing my talks, but I assumed that the sum of what I shared would be greater than what I learned. EFYE conference have definitely left me thinking on how to create a positive impact in students experience and enhance student engagement.

Forever grateful to University of Derby, Erica and Tamsin allowing me to be a PAL Leader without this opportunity I wouldn’t learn and experience so many new things in such a short period of time. The journey has taught me how to organise, plan, present and execute a plan. Prior to planning workshops and pre rehearsal in order to adjust the plan. Derby has been amazing in helping my journey even though most student feel the ‘The Blues’ I was lucky enough I was not in that position, in fact I felt the blues in year 1. This year has been the best so far and it give me the hope to well prepare myself for year 3. I’m quite excited to where this journey will take me.

Mariame Thiam: @MariameThiam2

Lotty, Mariame and Emma then presented their experience as Peer Assisted Learning Leaders at the University of Derby Festival of Learning with findings from the LEGO: BUILD IT! EFYE workshop showcased to delegates.