Peer Assisted Learning in Maths
There can be some real pleasure in declaring a professional interest, and this is one of those occasions. Appearing less than a month ago in the International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, three colleagues – namely Francis Duah, Tony Croft and Matthew Inglis – from the Mathematics Education Centre here at Loughborough University have just published an article entited “Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics?”
The abstract reads: “We report the implementation and evaluation of a ‘peer assisted learning’ (PAL) scheme designed to reduce the so-called ‘cooling off’ phenomenon in undergraduate mathematics. ‘Cooling off’ occurs when mathematics undergraduates lose motivation and interest in their studies, despite having previously actively chosen to study it at higher levels. We found that, despite concerns about the novel didactic contract inherent in PAL schemes, a majority of students chose to engage with the scheme, and that the student leaders of the PAL sessions were generally capable of implementing a student-centred pedagogy. Furthermore, we found that students who attended the PAL sessions had higher achievement in their final examinations, even after controlling for their lecture attendance and prior attainment. We conclude by arguing that PAL may provide a useful mechanism for reducing the prevalence of the ‘cooling off’ phenomenon in some – but not all – groups of mathematics students.”
In advocating peer support as a mechanism to allow students to support other students within and beyond the curriculum, to become active participants and partners in the academic community, and to drive the learning agenda forward, the Teaching Centre is very proud to have been associated with, and to have contributed to, the training and implementation of this PAL scheme. We encourage colleagues and students alike to explore associated resources such as the Learn module entitled SYMBoL – Second Year Mathematics: BeyOnd Lectures, and to get involved in related events such as the HEA STEM: Practices in peer support – exploring alternative approaches to enhance the student experience workshop to be held in the Centre for Design and Engineering Education on 22nd January 2014. Peer support systems such as PAL are an incredibly powerful way to support our students in their transition to university life, to encourage them to own their studies, and to skill them for life beyond their undergraduate experience; go to the Peer Support Directory for more information on past and present related activities at this institution.
This is the fifth in our series of blog posts regarding publications by Loughborough University staff on pedagogical issues. Further information regarding this particular publication is available online; the full citation follows: Francis Duah, Tony Croft & Matthew Inglis, “Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics”, in International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, online publication 13 November 2013. doi: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0020739X.2013.855329