An investigation of MPharm students’ study habits and an evaluation of mentoring and the peer assisted learning programme at the University of Portsmouth

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Students’ transition into university is often a daunting experience. In 2012 the
University of Portsmouth (UOP) revised its academic structure where written
assessments would be undertaken at the end of the academic year. The new
structure was considerably different to the modularised learning environment
students were familiar with and the need for additional support was indicated. A
number of studies have determined students’ study habits and where they turn
for academic support, however none were specific to MPharm students. This
study explored the provision of academic support at UOP and where MPharm
students turn for help with their studies.
A mixed methods study (questionnaire and focus groups) was conducted in
Phase 1 targeting MPharm students in Stages 2, 3 and 4 exploring: why they
chose to study pharmacy, their experiences of study support at UOP, the effect
the support had upon them, and where they turned to for support. Phase 2,
informed by Phase 1, evaluated the student mentoring programme (SMP) using a
mixed methods approach; targeting Stages 2 and 3 students to explore opinions of the programme from both mentees’ and mentors’ perspectives. Phase 3,
informed by Phases 1 and 2, used a mixed methods approach to explore opinions of the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) programme from both PAL mentees’ and PAL leaders’ perspectives.
Key findings
Phase 1 showed that students at UOP demonstrated both intrinsic and extrinsic
reasons for choosing to study pharmacy; students who passed assessments
without second attempts adopted more effective organisational strategies than
their peers who failed assessments; and students thought a student mentoring
programme would help with transition into university and the MPharm.
Phase 2 revealed students who volunteered to be mentors wanted to help new
students settle into university and the MPharm course. Students who met on
more occasions with mentors benefitted most from the mentoring relationship.
Finally the SMP needed to be timetabled and structured to enable students to
meet face-to-face with mentors.
A timetabled PAL programme was developed and introduced in Phase 3; findings
indicate that higher levels of attendance, and organisation of the PAL sessions by
the PAL leaders, provided more positive benefits for Stage 1 students. PAL
leaders wanted to help new students and enhance their own curricula vitae and
develop transferable skills. All Phases revealed students were more comfortable approaching their peers and higher year students for academic study support as opposed to contacting a member of staff.
The supportive network gained from PAL can be compared to Communities of
Practice. PAL brought MPharm students, with the same interests and goals,
together and achieved a collective and collaborative learning environment.
Date of AwardMar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorDavid Brown (Supervisor) & Jane Portlock (Supervisor)

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