Resources

Using peer learning assistants has been successfully implemented in a variety of disciplines with slightly different models. Below a list of publications describing the approaches and outcomes.

NMSU – BioCats

In biology junior and senior undergraduate peer instructors (BioCats) help freshman and sophomore students through their introductory biology courses. In the first semester course (BIOL 111), case studies, as well as activities designed to foster development of general learning skills, are facilitated by BioCats in small workshop sessions. The success of this approach has been described in Preszler (2009).  In the second semester course (BIOL 211), the case studies are facilitated by BioCats in break-out sessions during assembly-style lectures. The two different approaches are compared and discussed in Shuster&Preszler (2014)


Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction (SI) are regularly-scheduled review sessions planned by “SI facilitators”, typically students who have previously done well in the course. The learning environment is cooperative and informal. Students engage in learning activities that complement the course material; for example they may compare notes, give mock tests, discuss readings, and focus on common misconceptions or difficulties. Students learn to synthesize or organize course content and foster study skills.  SI facilitators typically attend all class lectures, take notes, and act as model students.

International Center for Supplemental Instruction website (University of Missouri-Kansas City)

NMSU – Supplemental Instruction in Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has offered SI for their introductory chemistry courses since 2000. The Faculty Supervisor of the General Chemistry Supplemental Instruction Program is Deanna C. Dunlavy.

The following presentation describes the motivation for SI in chemistry and the initial implementation: Lara (2002)

NMSU – “Structured” Supplemental Instruction in Physics

The Department of Physics uses a somewhat different approach for SI, as the materials used during supplemental instruction are not designed or selected by student peer facilitators, but by the instructor, which might be a faculty member or an experienced graduate teaching assistant. When possible a PLA (or graduate TA) partners with the instructor in facilitating the SI workshops. These optional 1-credit courses consist of problem solving workshops that foster critical thinking and concept development in physics and application of mathematics for quantitative reasoning.  Using peer-instruction, groups of students work collaboratively on tutorial style problems. This successful SI model was piloted for the Physics for Life Sciences sequence in 2004 and has been expanded to more than half of the introductory courses in physics. The pass rates (grades of C- or better) for students participating in SI, when well implemented, are increased 10-20% as compared to students not participating.

For more information about the implementation of Supplemental Instruction in physics contact Michaela Burkardt.

More Examples of Supplemental Instruction:

Supplemental Instruction enhances performance in the supported courses for all populations, but there is evidence that gains are even greater for underrepresented minority students. For the case of introductory biology at San Francisco State University this is described in Rath et al.


University of Colorado Boulder Learning Assistant Program

The transformation of large-enrollment courses involves creating environments in which students can interact with one another, engage in collaborative problem solving, and articulate and defend their ideas. To accomplish this, undergraduate LAs are hired to facilitate small-group interaction in our large-enrollment courses. Learning Assistant Program website


The Center for Peer-led Team Learning (City College of CUNY)

Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) is a nationally recognized model of teaching and learning that originated in a chemistry course at the City College of New York in 1991. In PLTL, students who have done well are recruited to be peer-leaders: students who facilitate small-group learning as an integral part of the course. Each week, the peer-leaders meet with their group to engage in problem solving and discussion of course material. PLTL website

U.S. Department of Education: Student Leadership –Promising and Practical Strategies: Peer-led Team Learning (MS Word, 147 kB)


If you like to suggest other resources and publications for this list please email pla@nmsu.edu – Thanks!