SOAS University of London

Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT)

Collaborative Student Learning

Students stand in circle discussing

What is CSL?

Collaborative Student Learning (CSL) is a new peer-led learning model developed at SOAS and inspired by internationally recognized programmes such as Supplemental Instruction and PASS. Put simply CSL is the practice of students meeting regularly in small structured study groups, to work collaboratively through shared areas of difficulty on their course. These group sessions are lead by CSL Facilitators - students from more senior years of study who have previously taken the same course and have been trained in group facilitation by the University. These CSL Facilitators act as a mentor and a guide, but not as a teacher. Their task is to help the CSL Participants to collectively identify, organise, and deconstruct components of the course that are being experienced as difficult, and then to facilitate group activities or discussions that will help the participants to develop solutions.

Who can attend CSL?

CSL sessions are subject-specific and run on a weekly basis alongside lectures and tutorials. CSL programmes are centrally co-ordinated, department-owned and student-led. In the academic year, 2019-2020 successful pilot schemes ran for first-year modules in Swahili, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Persian, Anthropology, Law and Development studies.

Further pilots and a series of full-length programmes will be running again in the academic year of 2020-2021 with a view to eventually making CSL available to students in every department.

What are the benefits of CSL?

Reported benefits for students who participate in peer-led learning sessions:
  • Subjects that run peer-led learning sessions attain lower failure and attrition rates (students dropping off the course), a higher percentage of first-class grade attainment & higher mean grade.
  • Academically, students take greater ownership of their learning experience, develop a deeper understanding and personal interest in their subject, and refine there own learning strategies and study skills
  • Reduced anxiety associated with transition into HE, have a greater sense of belonging and improved academic confidence.
  • Enhanced friendship and community development, greater confidence in social integration and participate more fully in the wider SOAS community.
  • These factors additionally contribute to better student retention (academic success and completion).

Reported benefits for CSL Facilitators :
  • Acquisition of higher-level transferable skills and leadership experience that are recognized by employers and accreditation bodies, improving students employability
  • Developing a deeper understanding of their subject, and opportunity to review foundational knowledge, impacting positively on attainment
  • Developing relationships and academic support networks, as well as enhancing intercultural awareness, leading to greater sense of belonging
  • Develop metacognitive/meta-learning skills - 'learning how you learn/think’ impacting positively on attainment
  • Receive a reference at the end of the year and tailored support from the careers service on showcasing their CSL experiences
  • Become a part of the growing SOAS CSL Facilitator network, with social events, special support and other benefits
  • Opportunity for progression within the growing Peer Support sector in Higher Education

For more information on how to get involved with future CSL programmes or to inquire about CSL on your course please email