W13 – Inside Peer Assisted Learning – How do students arrive at uni?

Dance room – MONDAY 15:30-16:30

Workshop – 60 minutes

Dr. Julia Sacher

Centre for Teaching, Learning and Career; Bielefeld University, Germany

Julia Sacher has a background in Linguistics, Interaction Analysis and Conversation Analysis. She is a staff member of the project “starting together with Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)” and responsible for the training and qualification of the students.


At Bielefeld University, Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is employed to help first year students to getting used to university life. In the workshop, Videodata from “inside” the PAL-sessions serve as a starting point for discussion about how to prepare students for their respective roles.


Beginning to study and getting used to university life is a challenge for each student. At Bielefeld University in Germany, the project “starting together with Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)” has been implemented to help students face the challenges of their first term(s) at university. Thus, the PAL-projects addresses the following questions: How do I learn in a lecture? How to find out which content is more important, which less? What are efficient ways of note-taking? How do I solve problems, and how does my discipline work?

PAL answers these questions as follows: In the introductory courses, the last 30 minutes are reserved for so called PAL-sessions. In these sessions, specially trained PAL-Teamers (2nd- and 3rd-semester students) meet with their PAL-group (10-20 students) to facilitate discussions, talk about learning strategies etc. Crucial for the PAL-Teamers’ job is that they don’t teach – they only manage the processes that emerge from their group.

In the workshop, I want to present authentic videodata and transcriptions from the PALsessions in Bielefeld. A microanalytic perspective will be employed (e.g. as described with respect to the conversation analytic paradigm by Sacks 1984, ten Have 2007, Antaki 2011). This perspective will enable the participants of the workshop to describe and reconstruct what happens inside a PAL-session and thus serve to sensitize for the fine-grained details of student interaction.

This microanalytic perspective will serve as the starting point for data-driven discussion on two sets of questions. The first set is this: How can students best be trained to become PAL-teamers? Which are the communicative challenges they face? How can they learn to structure processes? How does one identify a process, after all?

The second set of questions focuses on the students’ side: How do students’ ways of thinking and learning develop during the PAL-sessions? How do they get socialized “into” the disciplines via discoursive activities? And what can criteria be for evaluating their development on an interactive level?

The structure of the workshop is as follows:

 Introduction: PAL at Bielefeld University
 Input: What is a “microanalytic perspective”?
 Participants: Work in two (or four) groups with video data, respective focus on question sets 1 +2
 Discussion + Synthesis


– Antaki, C. (2011). Six kinds of applied conversation analysis. In: C. Antaki (ed.), Applied conversation analysis. Intervention and change in institutional talk (p. 1- 14). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
– Ten Have, P. (2007). Doing Conversation Analysis. A practical guide. 2nd ed. London: Sage.
– Sacks, Harvey (1984). Notes on methodology. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (eds.), Structures of social action. Studies in conversation analysis (p. 21-27). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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