Peer Assisted Collaborative Learning
Among the most important pedagogical changes that aid learning is move faculty movement away from extensive lecturing to greater utilization of active, collaborative, assignments and discussion during class time. Many instructors are interested to replace lectures with time for students to collaboratively problem-solve, develop projects, or respond to short assignments with classmates, but are concerned by the prospects of low success in large classes.
One key to successful implementation of collaborative learning in large classes is the availability of “experts” who learners can consult when needing clarification and who provide assistance with collaboration, an alternative prompt, or a confidence check on progressing work. IUSS supports a program of Peer Learning Facilitators (PLFs), a classroom learning-assistance effort by undergraduates working with instructors to facilitate active, collaborative learning during class time.
Peer learning facilitators (PLFs) assisting students with collaborative problem solving in EPS101 (left) and MATH121 (right)
PLFs work 10-12 hours per week with tasks varying in consultation with instructors and necessarily including in-class work with students and preparatory time under guidance from instructors. PLFs may review student in-class work and summarize problem points and misconceptions upon which instructors can then focus. PLFs will receive intensive pre-semester training and will attend 1-2 hours of training each week during the semester.
The PLF program builds from UNM’s pilot experience supported by the Walmart Minority Student Initiative and examples set by other institutions. During the initial PLF pilot at UNM, overall grade performance improved in most class sections where instructors transitioned to PLF-assisted collaborative-learning instruction. In addition, 85% of students enrolled in these course sections responded in polls that they prefer to learn in classes where collaborative learning replaces some or all of instructor lecture and 90% stated that it was important to have PLFs as classroom resources. PLFs not only enrich the learning experience for students but also provide important résumé-enhancing, professional development opportunities for PLFs themselves. Recruiting PLF hires from under-represented groups adds the benefit of PLFs serving as role models to the students they assist. Beginning in Spring 2012, the IUSS PLF program will employ 40 undergraduates/semester to work in 15-20 STEM gateway-course class sections.
Click here for an FAQ sheet prepared for faculty interested in working with PLFs
Click here for the UNMJobs posting for students wanting to apply to be a PLF
To apply to have PLFs in your course, please contact Gary Smith at OSET, 277-2229, firstname.lastname@example.org