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Queen Mary Academy

Co-creation of Peer Led Team Learning training material for Peer Leaders

Student peer leaders at an celebration event in the Queen's Building
Headshot of Sally Faulkner

Dr Sally Faulkner

Senior Lecturer, Director of Teaching and Learning (DTL) in Biology

In collaboration with

Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) is a new programme at Queen Mary, and as such we want to develop bespoke training resources, including making some subject specific training materials.

Responding to a need

PLTL has emerged as a powerful educational approach that fosters collaborative learning and student engagement. At Queen Mary University of London, the PLTL program has been met with resounding success, prompting a continuous commitment to its enhancement and expansion. One key area we were keen to improve was our training of Peer Leaders; specifically, a comprehensive training program for Peer Leaders has been developed. 

In order to maximise the success of PLTL at Queen Mary, we need to harness the enthusiasm of our Peer Leaders and provide robust, training material that can be used year on year.  We know that training should not be optional, and without solid training Peer Leaders could become answer givers instead of facilitators. Peer Leader training is one of the critical components of the PLTL model and without it, Peer Leaders could revert to what they feel comfortable with – reciting and lecturing.  PLTL sets itself apart from other group workshops such as PASS as the leaders are trained to not see themselves as teachers but as facilitators of learning who can advocate on behalf of the students.  Each PLTL workshop will depend on the commitment and skill of the Peer Leader. In our case, this message will be made clear to the Leaders and without thorough training the Leaders could lack conviction to the PLTL model and lose their sense of belonging.

In our first two years of running PLTL, Peer Leaders attended a two-hour compulsory training session covering the history of PLTL, its six critical components and why Queen Mary was interested in implementing this innovative approach. Colleagues from the Queen Mary Academy co-delivered the session focusing on the art of facilitation and different facilitation techniques. However, our approach was fairly didactic in nature and feedback from our Peer Leaders commented that the training felt too brief and furthermore that they did not always feel fully prepared before their first session. We believe this was primarily because these first two cohorts of Peer Leaders had no prior experience of PLTL; for many, this was their first time leading an educational activity and thus they required further guidance and support.

Reflecting on this and the planned future expansion of our PLTL programme in 2023/24, the PLTL project team began to re-examine the training resources. Inspired by the work of colleagues at Rochester University which was presented at the 10th Annual Conference of The PLTL International Society, we sought to create a variety of resources in collaboration with our Peer Leaders. A grant from the Westfield Fund allowed us to hire two Peer Leaders as interns to develop a new training programme. Co-creation with students is embedded in the Queen Mary Values promoting a strong sense of collegial community. Furthermore, this student-led approach incorporated feedback from our students and allowed the training material to be designed in a digestible, student-friendly manner.

Peer Leaders at the training day


We want to further work with our students to develop suitable training materials for our Peer Leaders. Co-creation of educational material is an excellent form of engagement, in this case with undergraduate learning material. Here, students and staff will work together, in partnership, giving students a sense of belonging, a student voice and a stake in curriculum development. Our approach is underpinned by Queen Mary’s Active Curriculum for Excellence (ACE) approach to education, with PLTL particularly fostering formal and informal small active learning groups. The training material we will develop with our peer leaders also give our learners opportunities for developing their graduate attributes (as co-curricular activities that will be recognised). Participants will be encouraged and supported to have their co-creation activities recognised by applying for the SEED award - recipients receive a certificate and the award goes to their HEAR transcript.

Approach used

The current cohort of Peer Leaders surveyed to identify gaps in the previous training program and suggest ideas to be prioritised. The enhanced training program emerged as an immersive online 'course page' comprising of written documents, videos and interactive activities. This material will be consolidated and reinforced through an in-person training day to be held in late September during “Welcome Week” culminating in a final online assessment.  Based on the responses from this questionnaire training material were developed and a training day schedule was created.

A new QMplus page was developed, alongside a Peer Leader Handbook.

A screenshot sowing the PLTL Peer Leader Training Material page in QMplus

Upon completion of the training, our Peer Leaders are required to undertake an online assessment to assess their comprehension and retention of the key concepts covered during the training program. This assessment comprises a 25-question multiple-choice quiz (MCQ) format, designed to evaluate the Peer Leaders' understanding of the material. To qualify as a certified Peer Leader participants must achieve a minimum score of 70% or above on the MCQ. A certificate is awarded to Peer Leaders on successfully completely the MCQ. The online assessment serves as a crucial evaluation tool, ensuring that Peer Leaders have grasped the essential knowledge and skills necessary for their role as workshop facilitators. 

The training session and the handbook were particularly useful. I am looking forward to the planning session and the first PLTL session.
— Student Peer Leader


This project has culminated in the development of a comprehensive and impactful training program designed by our Peer Leaders for our Peer Leaders. Through a combination of different training materials and resources we are confident our Peer Leaders will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lead engaging and effective PLTL sessions. This work has been submitted to a peer reviewed journal and is currently under review.

Students were surveyed following the improved training day and asked a combination of questions so we can carry on developing this session, with the students at the forefront of our minds. Feedback will be reviewed over the coming year. The figure below shows feedback on how useful each student found the various sections of the training day.

A bar chart showing student feedback on the Peer Leader Training Day

In the survey, 11% of students indicated that were confident and no students were very confident before the training material. This increased to 73% of students indicating that they were confident and 11% very confident after the training material.

All students who completed the post-training survey either found the session beneficial (52%) or very beneficial (48%).

36 Peer Leaders received the SEED Award last academic year. We will be encouraging the students who collaborated with us for this project to apply for the SEED Award to get their contributions recognised.

Dr Sally Faulkner

Senior Lecturer, Director of Teaching and Learning (DTL) in Biology

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