Title: Dissertation Buddies: Co-creation of a peer support system for PGT students to support academic development, social engagement and wellbeing during the dissertation phase

Author: Julie Smith

Theme: Building Community; Staff-student co-creation curriculum work

Our poster reports on the development and implementation of a peer-to-peer buddy system for PGT students during the dissertation phase of their Master’s degree.  The programme is designed to promote a continued sense of community at a time when students move away from the taught component of their studies, through co-creation of activities that will promote academic development, social engagement, and wellbeing.

Success at undergraduate does not guarantee success at post-graduate (Hussy & Smith 2010) and study at PGT level can be affected by difficulties in understanding expectations, and fewer opportunities (or time) for developing community and sense of belonging (McPherson, Punch & Graham, 2017).  A sense of belonging is vital for student wellbeing, as well as academic achievement (Student Minds MH Charter 2021). 

Peer support has been shown to alleviate many student challenges in relation to social integration (McPherson, Punch & Graham 2017), academic performance (Maher et al 2013), and wellbeing (Byrom 2018).  Peer-to-peer support systems are empowering because focus shifts from a helper who will solve a problem to two people learning together (Mead & Filson 2017).
Our project will develop, implement and evaluate an MHSES roll out of Dissertation Buddies, a peer-to-peer buddy system initially trialled, and successfully implemented with MSc Education students. Through buddy pairings, our main objectives are to:

• Co-create with students a calendar of activities (including those currently offered by SESO and IAD) for buddies to support social interaction, academic performance and wellbeing. 
• Promote the inclusion of the project to students across MHSES PGT community.
• Evaluate the extent to which students found this a useful approach to supporting their studies, social engagement, and wellbeing during the dissertation phase.