The efficacy and impact of peer-support learning groups on students of 1st year modules with a particular focus on a 1st year accounting module
In UL, the Peer-Supported Learning Centre (PSLC) provides a peer-learning (PL) model called Peer-Supported Learning Groups (PSLG), where students currently taking historically difficult modules are supported and led by past students through small group-based problems and exercises to understand better the content of the module targeted. PL has proven a beneficial support tool for 3rd-level students particularly those who are attending 3rd-level for the first time. As well as improving outcomes for modules and subjects, it allows students to form new peer groups and better integrate into a new learning environment. By drawing on this naturally occurring, organic network of people, this peer-supported model generates co-creation between teachers and learners that serves to enhance both subject knowledge and the community of learners. In this presentation, we will have a specific focus on the PSLG for first-year financial accounting students. We discuss the complementary learning objectives and teaching philosophies of the academic lead and the PSLC, offer evidence supporting the impact of PSLG attendance on student learning outcomes and provide details on how the support is organised and run. We also discuss the perceptions of the effect of running the peer support programme, as elucidated by the student leaders and other stakeholders.
Associate Professor, Dr Antoinette Flynn (PhD Accounting), Kemmy Business School is a senior Associate Professor, educator, researcher and PhD supervisor with the Kemmy Business School (KBS), University of Limerick. Dr. Flynn has a Bachelor of Business Studies degree in Finance and a Masters in Business Studies in International Business. Antoinette’s PhD is in market-based accounting research and combined with her Master’s degree focused on international entrepreneurship, Antoinette was inspired to research and publish in cross-disciplinary areas of financial accounting, corporate governance, entrepreneurial finance and minority entrepreneurship.
With more than 20 years of experience as an educator, Antoinette has developed her domain expertise through various roles as a financial accounting External Examiner with national universities and professional accounting bodies. Antoinette led the BA Law and Accounting degree and the MSc Financial Services degree as programme director for the KBS and was appointed KBS Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs throughout the Covid pandemic era. As an alumni of the International Teachers Programme, Antoinette has multiple teaching awards, for both large class and small class settings, including a National Teaching Hero award (National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) 2021 and being shortlisted for the European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities May 2019.
As a testament to Antoinette’s deep commitment to her vocation, she has published in education and technology education journals and continues to develop her teaching skills and excellence, which was most recently recognised through the UL Teaching Excellence Award for Pedagogical Support (2023), in collaboration with the Regional Peer-Supported Learning Centre UL.
James Murphy has been running the Regional Peer-Supported Learning Centre (PSLC) since 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems and a Masters of Engineering in Computer Engineering. His role involves the running, maintaining and training of Peer-Supported Learning Group (PSLG) Programmes at the PSLC and as such his duties involve working with faculty and the student body in the deployment of peer-learning programmes in such disparate disciplines as Accounting, Engineering, Mathematics, Physiotherapy, Programming and Natural Languages. As part of the deployment, James performs all the training and development of the student leaders for each programme. The training entails a mix of online content and videos supplemented by an in-person workshop with the students covering how to prepare for, organise and run an effect peer-learning session and environment, how to get the students to interact with the material being covered and with each other and how to maximise the learning outcomes through group activities. Mr Murphy’s background in industry has involved training and skill development, experience that he brings to the training of the student leaders.
James has been part of the team involved in two projects for the National Forum for the enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education – Development of a Strategy and Framework for a Digital Learner Support Hub (2019) and An Investigation of the Impact of Learner Support Initiatives on Retention in ICT Programmes (2015) – both of which built on the work of the PSLC, in particular its PSLG programme. James’s background, prior to taking over his current role is in the area of computer programming in particular with regards deployment of standalone applications to web deployed applications. James has also been actively involved in assistive programmes for students of programming languages and in outreach programmes to second level students to attract them to programming and ICT as a future career.
In 2023, James and Antoinette’s collaboration in providing PL to the 1st Year Accounting module was recognised at both faculty and university level when they were awarded the inaugural Teaching Excellence Award for Pedagogical Support.