Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL)
The PLTL effort is creating and disseminating materials for key CS courses. A proven strategy for retention, PLTL provides an active learning experience for students and creates leadership roles for undergraduates. The PLTL Workshop model engages teams of six to eight students in learning sciences, mathematics and other undergraduate disciplines guided by a peer leader.
Students who have done well in this experience become guides, mentors and workshop peer leaders. For the peer leaders, the experience of working with faculty and guiding their peers through a difficult course is rewarding. This facilitation can take many forms using various techniques for problem solving, offering timely assistance when a group is stuck, and providing guidance and encouragement.
The PLTL effort supports academic performance and retention in the gatekeeper courses. For computer science the first three introductory courses are “gatekeeper courses,” i.e., the courses that cause many students to fail or drop-out of the courses and possibly the major. Another gatekeeper course is Discrete Math. Among the significant reasons for failure are lack of preparation and lack of support inside and outside the classroom. PLTL validates students as capable persons who belong at the university and enhances the likelihood of academic success.
Across a variety of institutions, disciplines, and course levels, groups of students using peer-led workshops earned higher grades than their counterparts in non-workshop courses. The PLTL project’s student performance assessment is deliberately based on grades, comparing the performance of groups of students with and without PLTL workshops. In a PLTL study, 81% of the students surveyed agreed that interacting with the workshop leader increased their understanding of the subject, while 91% of the peer leaders surveyed stated that acting as a workshop leader increased their understanding of the subject, as well.
The lead institutions are NMSU and UHD. Participating institutions are CSU-DH, UTEP, and TAMU-CC. The lead institutions are working together to develop a train-the-trainers workshop and activity materials for peer sessions. A representative from the adopting institutions will attend the 2-day train-the-trainers workshop, and return to their home institution to train the student peer leaders.