1. Conferences
  1. Learning at City Conference

Session 1C

Paper 1

Evaluating the effectiveness of a peer-to-peer buddying system in enhancing the experience of transition into practice placements for diagnostic radiography students

Dr Sophie Willis - Lecturer | School of Health Sciences

Dr Jane Harvey Lloyd - Associate Professor | University of Suffolk

Peer-to-peer buddy systems proffer the potential for support to students during parts of their educational experience identified to be challenging and represent times where negative experiences can suppress their success and undermine their chances of successful progression. Buddy-system support strategies that seek to reduce negative educational experiences promote successful progression.

Enhancing the experiences of radiography students when they commence their first clinical placement is key to both positive learning experiences and improving retention and progression through the programmes. Positive experiences of transition are known to reduce attrition and be powerful for sustaining learner engagement in programmes. Peer support was found to be heavily utilised in the study by Harvey-Lloyd (unpublished PhD) by newly qualified radiographers and this is something that can easily be transferable to undergraduate radiography programmes.  Buddying can form part of a peer-support network and facilitate the development of collaborative relationships, which are supportive and non-competitive (Morton-Cooper and Palmer, 2000).  Often limited collaboration between institutions results in opportunities to optimise student’s support being missed. This study sought to adopt a collaborative approach to redefine learner support during clinical placements.

This paper will share the outcomes of a peer-to-peer buddy system which was established across two universities sharing the same clinical placement site for student diagnostic radiographers. This involved students from one university being mentored by students from another. Twelve students took part in the scheme and were encouraged to meet on a regular basis over their first placement. Reflective accounts were subsequently analysed to explore the benefits of such collaborative approaches to both individual students and the universities involved.

This project empowered students and lead programme developments, such that the students-as-participants become ‘change agents’. Student feedback attests that many students find their first clinical placement challenging, as they must simultaneously adapt to unfamiliar environments and different styles of learning. This can potentially suppress the success of their transition and mean that they consequently do not benefit from all learning opportunities available. Peer-to-peer budding of students enabled effective support for year 1 students and collaboration between universities was judged highly effective in promoting positive early experiences during clinical placements.


Harvey-Lloyd JM (2017). Being and becoming a diagnostic radiographer. University of Brighton: Unpublished PhD Thesis.

Morton-Cooper A and Palmer A (2000).  Providing A Professional Support Framework in A Guide to Professional Roles in Clinical Practice (2nd Ed). Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Paper 2

Understanding issues around supporting and promoting success for students from non-traditional routes: the transition from foundation to BSc.

Dr Irene Ctori - Lecturer | School of Health Sciences

Dr Sophie Willis - Lecturer | School of Health Sciences

Widening participation to HE is a complex issue with many institutional and personal factors combining to potentially inhibit access and progression. Foundation programmes are one way in which the HE landscape is embracing strategies, including alternative learning and teaching approaches to support students throughout their HE careers and promote progression.

Summary: This paper will explore the findings of a research study to consider how higher education (HE) can create new opportunities to support learner diversity in uncertain times.

Background: There has been some research into the challenges of effective student transition from school/college to HE (Briggs et al., 2012), less has considered progression from foundation level to honours degree, particularly for non-traditional students who may have had a disjunctive experience of previous education.

Rationale: Previous studies have emphasised the need for institutional-wide initiatives to promote and enhance engagement. Few studies actually examine people’s life experiences to consider the necessity of transforming individual HE institutions in order to address factors that may act to supress access and impede the success of progression between levels of study (Jessen and Elander, 2009).

Aim: To explore the experiences of students entering BSc (Hons) level study having undertaken a foundation year at the same institution and explore the nature of their transitions.

Method: An intrinsic case-study was conducted within an interpretive framework. Data were gathered via individual semi-structured interviews with 12 participants studying either: Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing or BSc (Hons) Optometry degree. All data were analysed thematically following an initial structural coding framework and subsequently a second cycle pattern coding framework.

DISCUSSION: Combinations of both structural and personal factors have a dynamic and evolving relationship on participant’s experiences and expectations of their engagement in studying and transition through HE. The is a need for HEIs to provide positive early student experiences that sustain engagement and promote progression, attention is needed to focus on the unique ways in which diversification of the student body has necessitated more individualised approaches to facilitate this. Such approaches may help to enhance retention and reduce the attrition that is acknowledged to happen early on in a student’s HE career.

Attendees will gain:

  • To identify opportunities for personal/institutional practices that will promote positive experience of transition for students who enter higher education via non-traditional routes.
  • To reflect on the relevance of research findings across a range of academic disciplines where similar approaches could be adapted/emulated in order to promote student success. The challenges for implementation will also be discussed.
  • To identify ways in which students’ experience can be used to inform educational practices to result in better retention and higher rates of progression through various programmes of study


Briggs, A.R., Clark, J. and Hall, I., 2012. Building bridges: understanding student transition to university. Quality in Higher Education, 18(1), pp.3-21.

Jessen, A., and Elander, J., 2009. Development and evaluation of an intervention to improve further education students' understanding of higher education assessment criteria: three studies. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33(4), pp.359-380.