Communities of practice for international students: the role of peer assisted study sessions in supporting transition and learning in higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is growing interest in understanding how international students can best be enabled to adjust to, participate in and learn from higher education (HE). This paper examines findings from a recent study in the UK which explored the contribution the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) scheme makes to this process. An earlier study used in-depth interviews with international students to generate data; following findings related to engagement with a learning community, this current study rescrutinised that data using Lave and Wenger’s (1991) social-learning theory, Communities of Practice, as a theoretical lens. Themes of community, practice and participation were used to explore and understand the role of PASS in supporting international students’ transition and learning in HE. Findings illuminated the role of PASS in helping international students to socially integrate with students of other nationalities, developing friendships with peers and PASS leaders, which literature evidences contributing to an increased sense of belonging to a community. Through the mutual engagement of attendees and leaders, students developed shared language, values and practices relating to their discipline and studying in UK HE. Established PASS leaders shared experiences of first year with ‘newcomer’ international students, supporting their transition into UK HE culture and enabling their legitimate peripheral participation to develop more fully. Participation in PASS fostered students’ engagement with learning activities and independent study habits. Limitations to the study and suggestions for further research will also be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-115
Number of pages26
JournalSupplemental Instruction Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014



  • communities of practice
  • international students
  • peer assisted learning
  • learning communities
  • participation
  • adjustment
  • transition

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