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Should PAL facilitators be paid?

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

The issue is whether PAL facilitators (students who have already completed the course concerned) should be paid, or alternatively regarded as volunteers. There are arguments for and against.

In the USA pay is usual, in the UK there's a roughly even split between universities that do and don't pay. (See this literature review for some details.)

  • The pay isn't enough to be motivating; and it isn't reliable enough (because greatly unpredicatable and fluctuating demand means facilitators may be laid off).
  • It makes the organisers lazy about maximising the real motivations: public credit and praise. Proper training and ...
  • It will make departments less likely to adopt PAL unless desperate.
  • But pay does show respect in this society.

  • However this issue may be very different in different departments or disciplines: for instance some professions essentially require voluntary work on students' CVs before they can expect employement.

    In a feedback Session for Psychology facilitators on 8/Oct/03, in a discussion at the session the main reasons given for volunteering to become a facilitator:

    1. Feel you could help someone
    2. Would have liked it themselves in level 1:
      • Didn't know anyone
      • Would have liked experience of group work
      • Good not with a lecturer
      • level 1 confusing: -- what you need to do to get into level 2 etc.
    3. Want to be an Educational Psychologist -- good experience for this
    4. Good for CV (relevant to psychology)
    5. Will help studies now -- experience of working in groups
    6. Will help consolidate knowledge
    7. Love psychology therefore interested in anything to do with psychology
    8. In level 1 can be "a bit blind". Students more likely to believe other students than staff -- "keep reading and you won't need to cram before exam"
    9. Gain experience from working in groups
    10. Gain experience of advising/giving advice
    11. Liked concept of PAL
    12. Like helping people
    13. A challenge
    14. Was encouraged by the Student Network to apply
    15. Money
    16. Experience in past of facilitating: would like to do it again
    17. Have done similar things before: involved at school helping 1st years and paired reading; taught English during year out.

    In feedback meetings in November 2003, the psychology facilitators agreed that they would have signed up even if no pay was offered (i.e. it was not a deciding factor), but that pay was extremely welcome. (Of course this was face to face, speaking to me: this could have led to underemphasising the role of pay.)

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