The practice of more experienced students being trained to guide and facilitate the learning of less experienced students in an organised and supported way is gaining momentum as a global phenomenon; peer learning schemes now exist on all continents and hold relevance for students of all cultures. Some UK schemes have been in existence since the early 1990s and in 2014 the Higher Education Academy commissioned a report entitled “Mapping student led peer learning in the UK” (Keenan 2014).
The report identified a range of social and academic benefits for students and institutions and was illustrated by brief case studies of innovative practice. A key recommendation made within the report was: “The national and international peer-learning community should promote the sharing of practice, undertake pooling of data and collaborative research into the participative pedagogies and build a bank of impact studies” (Keenan 2014).
So far, this recommendation has been addressed in two ways. Firstly, there will be a special edition of the peer reviewed Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education to be published in November 2015 which will focus on peer led academic learning. Secondly, a new international network has been launched for all those who are interested in this subject. This new network aims to promote the sharing of practice, advice and ideas, and also to develop collaborative international research opportunities. Already this fast growing, global community has 223 subscribers who are sharing their interests and experiences of peer led academic learning. In order to move the evaluation and research agenda forward a special interest group (SIG) has been set up within the network to identify key impact measures, share evaluation practices, and coordinate collaborative research. A specific priority of the SIG will be to develop a large impact study and already network members from 26 institutions including the UK, Canada, Australia, the USA and South Africa are collaborating on this.