Peer–Assisted Learning (PAL) Academic Support for Undergraduate Students

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Peer–Assisted Learning (PAL) Academic Support for Undergraduate Students A program of the SMART Learning Commons. What is PAL ?. Structured weekly study sessions for students in participating courses Rooted in cooperative learning theory* - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Peer–Assisted Learning (PAL) Academic Support for Undergraduate Students

Slide 1Rooted in cooperative learning theory*
Research shows that collaborative learning strategies:
Improve academic performance
Chinese proverb
*Arendale, D. (2004). Pathways of Persistence: A review of postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs. In I. Duranczyk, J. L. Higbee, & D. B. Lundell (Eds.), Best practices for access and retention in higher education, (pp. 27-40). Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota. Available:
Facilitated by undergraduate students who have excelled in the course and have completed the PAL training.
PAL facilitators engage students in discussions and activities to promote deeper understanding of course concepts. They do not teach.
Students share learning strategies, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Students experience their peers as resources for their own learning.
How PAL Works
What is PAL?
Benefits of PAL
Students participating in PAL were enrolled in ANSC 1001-Introduction to Animal Science.
Students required to attend weekly, fifty minute PAL sessions for academic support in Chemistry 1011/15.
All students in the study were enrolled in Chemistry 1011/15.
A matched-paired control sample was created; Students in PAL matched with students who did not attend PAL sessions. Matching based on:
composite - ACT scores
Kari-Ann Ediger & David Arendale, PhD
In both courses, PAL was embedded in the students’ schedules upon registration and attendance was required.
* MATH 1051: Result is a significant positive correlation between attendance at PAL and academic performance.
(slope=.027, p< .001) Sample size =79 students
Note: Instructor gave points for solving a specific problem that was only available to students who attended PAL.
** MATH 1031: Data resulted in a gentler (but still statistically significant) positive correlation (slope=.0063, p<.05). Sample size =246 students.
The A-mazing Impact of PAL
Math Spring 2008
Peer-Assisted Learning in
Math 1031 & 1051
PAL didn’t begin until 2006
2005: Significantly fewer F/W grades within the Animal
Science program
2006: Significantly more A’s within PAL participants
2007: No significant differences, though there was a positive trend for PAL participants
Peer-Assisted Learning in Chemistry 1011/1015
Hey! These PAL groups are a
PAL facilitators:
Express and foster multicultural sensitivity through thoughtful grouping strategies
Encourage participants to actively engage with course material and with each other
Provide a variety of ways for students to process course content knowledge, appealing to various learning styles and abilities
Provide natural supports for learning: study guides, discussion groups, practice quizzes
Share power and responsibility among the participants in the session
Access to Success
PAL has a “Universal Design for Instruction” quality *: the open, welcoming environment and activities benefit a wide range of academic abilities.
The structure of PAL allows for mixed ability groupings. Research shows this yields better solutions than those from groupings of same ability participants – both high and low. **
**Heller, P., Keith, R., and Anderson, S. (1992). Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. American Journal of Physics, 60(7): 627-644.
PAL supports a significant number of women in gateway Chemistry courses through partnerships with CFANS and MCAE – in particular,
the SEAM cohorts (Student Excellence in Academics and Multiculturalism)
PAL responds to the demand for emphasis on social learning and challenging problem-solving that inspire students to excel.
Treisman, Uri (1992). Studying students studying calculus: A look at the lives of minority mathematics students in college. College Mathematics Journal 23(5), 362-372.
PAL Facilitators empower their peers to be search engines by:
Infusing a spirit of inquiry through collaborative work
Redirecting questions back to the students
Sharing their intellectual passion and genuine curiosity
Their desire to help students achieve success
PAL Participants vs Non-Participants