To further the goal of reducing attrition and D/F/W rates in gateway math/science courses, one of the initiatives of the STREAMS NSF grant is student-led structured learning assistance in these courses. This initiative creates a team of peer learning assistants (PALs) that will assist faculty in delivering inquiry- and team-based problem solving in all sections of supported courses.
The roles of PALs within a course are woven into the very design of the lecture, laboratory, and/or cognate. Students in PAL-supported courses generally interact with their PAL regularly during scheduled course meetings, and hold scheduled office hours outside of class to provide additional assistance. Meeting with PALs becomes an official and cultural requirement of the course design.
Depending on the structure of the existing course, a one-credit cognate may be specially developed to provide students additional time to meet with their PAL in small groups. These cognate meetings may be used as recitation to provide assistance with lecture material or homework, or may serve as group problem solving sessions with their own syllabus and set of activities that are then woven into the lecture and laboratory narrative. PALs as a group meet with faculty weekly to coordinate and assess activities.
PALs are undergraduate students, generally but not necessarily majors in the relevant discipline, who have successfully completed the course for which they will assist. The ideal PAL is one who has not only performed well in the course, but who also shows promising characteristics of an effective tutor: good work ethic, patience, strong communication skills, and a positive attitude toward teaching. PALs will receive training in effective tutoring and inquiry techniques through the Academic Achievement Center. Students considering careers in education will find the experience gained as a PAL to be especially valuable.
Cognate model (4 + 1 credits)
BIOL 121 (Lecture+Lab) + BIOL 150 (Cognate)
Cognate scheduled on opposite day from lab: Tuesday lab students take Thursday cognate and vice versa.
Each lecture section breaks into four small groups of 5-8 students for the sake of cognate work.
PAL weekly breakdown:
No-cognate "studio" model (4 credits)
PHYS 243 (Lecture/Lab Hybrid)
Lecture and lab are delivered simultaneously in longer time blocks. Class cycles between minilectures, lab activities, and group work.
PALs attend the class to assist students in laboratory activities and group work.
PAL weekly breakdown:
Last Modified: June 9, 2010