Peer-assisted learning and small-group teaching to improve practice placement quality and capacity in dietetics

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Journal Article

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Reidlinger, D. P., Lawrence, J., Thomas, J. E. , Whelan, K. (2016, in press). Peer-assisted learning and small-group teaching to improve practice placement quality and capacity in dietetics. Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Copyright © 2016 Dietitians Association of Australia





Peer-assisted learning (PAL) has been positively evaluated during practice placements for medical, nursing and some allied health professional students. The aim of this study was to evaluate a PAL and small-group teaching model of dietetic practice placement education implemented in the UK setting as part of a quality improvement process.


A PAL placement model was adapted from a previously published Australian model, implemented and evaluated among dietetic students at King's College London and with their practice educators. Process evaluation with students and practice educators from PAL practice placements at two sites and traditional 1:1 practice placements at six sites consisted of weekly questionnaires and end-of-placement focus groups with 16 students and 35 practice educators. Perceptions of the barriers, concerns and strengths of the novel model were identified.


Implementing the PAL placement model at just two sites increased placement capacity by 12 students, a 1.3-fold increase across London. Students on PAL placements reported a good learning experience (89.3 vs 67.7%; P<0.001) and a satisfactory workload (83.1 vs 61.3%, P=0.005) more frequently than those on a traditional 1:1 placement. Practice educators reported significantly less time undertaking direct student supervision on PAL practice placements compared to 1:1 placements (153minutes/week 95% confidence interval (CI) 124-183 vs 264minutes/week 95% CI 204-324; P=0.001).


PAL practice placements offer potential benefits to placement capacity and possibly quality. The detailed evaluation will enable others to implement similar novel models of dietetics placements.

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This document has been peer reviewed.