Brief History (Adapted from Skyline College)
The supplemental instruction model, including peer learning, was first developed at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, in 1983 with the goal of identifying and supporting the most challenging courses for students. Because of its proven success, the supplemental instruction model has become popular in many universities and in a wide range of courses. The goal of supplemental instruction is to help students master course content while developing effective learning, critical thinking, and study strategies.
Supplemental Instruction has extended to over 800 colleges and universities around the world. As of January 2000, 700 institutions in the U.S. provided training to their faculty and staff for implementing supplemental instruction. Studies show that students who attend supplemental instruction sessions earn statistically higher final course grades than those students who do not attend—even among students who are under‐prepared when they enter the course (Congos and Schoeps, 1993, Congos, Langsam, and Schoeps, 1997).
First Steps in incorporating Peer Learning into your Courses
- Incorporate the LIUBLC Collaborative Learning blurb into your syllabus.
- Meet with your Peer Leaders and discuss how you wish to utilize their work with students – i.e. primarily in out of the classroom activities, primarily in the classroom, or some combination. (Tip: We recommend that you focus on in-class activities, at least in the beginning. That will produce the best results for students, peer leaders, and faculty.
- Become familiar with the Peer Learning Leader Manual, especially the various kinds of study and learning activities listed there. You might want to recommend particular activities for peer leaders to use with students. Peer Leaders can also recommend activities to use.
- Peer Leaders should fill out a “PAL Session Plan” form outlining what activity they plan to use with students, objectives, and planned time. They should also fill out an “Activity Reflection Form” after completing that activity session. They should do this for each new kind of activity they do with students. Both forms can be found at the back of the Peer Learning Leader Manual. Peer Coordinators will collect and review these forms.
- Peer Leaders should also take attendance at each out of class session they hold with students. These attendance sheets should be saved and submitted to the Peer Coordinators at the end of the semester. They will also be delivered to faculty to use in grading.
- One of the most important study sessions that peer leaders should have early in the semester with students is to review the use of the Cornell Note Taking system. Information is available here under Peer Learning Resources.
- In-class group work with peer leaders is one of the most effective ways to help your students to better learn the material. Lecture less and allow some time for the peer leaders to guide discussions with groups of students. This will probably do more to improve student comprehension and skills than a full class session of lecturing. The best way to do this is to prepare problems for students to solve in groups at the end of class. Another way is to give them a quiz where the first question is answered by each group together. The rest can be answered by the individual students.
Peer Learning/Supplemental Instruction Information for Faculty
The faculty guide below provides many ideas for how to incorporate peer learning into your courses. The information will prove useful for STEM, humanities, and social science courses. It includes topics such as how to incorporate the peer leaders into your course using “ice breakers’, ideas on how to best use peer leaders in lecture-based or participatory courses, pre and post exam strategies, writing assistance, group discussion strategies, and the particular example of peer learning in a math class. Click below: