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Atlas Academic Teaching And Learning Assistants Study: The Use Of Peers As ‘Quality Managers’ In Engineering Class Instruction

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade in Teaching II

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.219.1 - 15.219.20



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Paper Authors


Beverly Jaeger Northeastern University

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Beverly K. Jaeger, PhD is a member of Northeastern Universit⁹s Gateway Team, a select group of full-time faculty devoted to the First-year Engineering Program at Northeastern University (NU). While she concentrates on first-year engineering courses and instructs across all engineering disciplines, Dr. Jaeger also teaches specialty courses in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at NU in Digital Simulation, Facilities Planning, and Human-Machine Systems.

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Corey Balint Northeastern University

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Corey Balint is a junior Industrial Engineering major at Northeastern University who volunteered to assist with this research project after experiencing it first hand. He has been active in FIRST Robotics since his freshman year of high school as both a student and mentor. He also has served on the Executive Board of the Institute of Industrial Engineers since 2007, as well as serving as a peer mentor for the College of Engineering.

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Christopher Wishon Northeastern University

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Christopher Wishon is a junior Industrial Engineering student at Northeastern University (NU). He has been a member of NU's Institute of Industrial Engineers since 2007 and has served as the Vice President. Also while at NU, Chris has served as a Residential Assistant for the Honors Program (of which he is a member himself), academic tutor for the Student Athlete Support Services office, and Peer Mentor for first year Engineering students

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Colleen Fritze Northeastern University

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Colleen J. Fritze, MS is a coordinator for Non-Credit Instruction at Northeastern University. She is currently pursuing an EdD in Higher Education at Northeastern. Her twenty-four years of teaching and coaching in the areas of Physical Education and Athletics brings a unique perspective to team building and group dynamics relative to the ATLAS initiative. Her current research interests include enhancing critical thinking; individually and collectively, globalization, and the efficacy of group collaboration.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

ATLAS - Academic Teaching and Learning Assistants Study: The Use of Peers as ‘Quality Managers’ in Engineering Class Instruction

“Tell me, and I’ll listen. Show me, and I’ll understand. Involve me, and I’ll learn.” ~Teton Lakota Indian saying

Abstract In recent years, teacher/student ratios (TSR) have been progressively declining in many higher educational environments. While the reduced TSR is not necessarily a drawback to the educational experience, it is generally believed –or perceived– that fewer students per qualified instructor can have a more positive effect on educational outcomes in terms of attention, learning efficiency, communication patterns, and overall student satisfaction. To simultaneously address issues of class size and course quality, the Academic Teaching and Learning Assistants Study (ATLAS) was developed at Northeastern University. ATLAS explores the effects of enlisting and training student peers from within an ongoing class to serve as “Quality Managers” for select lessons and labs in engineering courses. These Quality Managers (QM’s) act as instructional and supportive extensions of the professor in more complex course environments. Following preparations with the instructor and some independent work on the labs or activities, QM’s serve as assistants and/or reference resources to their peers in the class to help guide selected lessons. More details are set out in the body of the paper in terms of QM selection, responsibilities, roles, and outcomes. Participating students (Quality Managers and their course peers, referred to in this work as general students) completed an extensive questionnaire inquiring about the use of QM’s in the classroom and, if applicable, their personal experience as a QM. The QM program was implemented across multiple academic levels: freshman (1styear), middler (3rd-year) and seniors (5th-year), and all levels participated in the feedback process. Empirical data gathered in the ATLAS initiative strongly supports the efficacy of the QM program and provides evidence that the use of Quality Managers has appreciably improved activities in classroom and lab settings and has enhanced the academic experience of the QM’s themselves. Introduction and Background In their work on engineering education, Upadhyay et al., state, “Quality consciousness has become a central theme for any human endeavor in today’s competitive world. The system of higher education is not devoid of this concept.”9 Baldwin another educational advocate, refers to meeting the challenges in our current STEM classrooms and considers possible innovative solutions to such demands: “Today many of the efforts to strengthen undergraduate education in Science, Technology Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields continue to rely on individual faculty and small faculty groups who are committed to the cause of improving science or technology education in their department or institution.”2 Baldwin and Upadhyay provide an apt lens for this focus on raising educational quality and inspiration to seek out ways to accomplish this . In this paper, the Academic Teaching and Learning Assistants Study (ATLAS) describes one initiative that has effectively attempted to address some of the challenges that persist in STEM classroom and lab cultures through the use of strategic and guided peer-assisted instruction.

Jaeger, B., & Balint, C., & Wishon, C., & Fritze, C. (2010, June), Atlas Academic Teaching And Learning Assistants Study: The Use Of Peers As ‘Quality Managers’ In Engineering Class Instruction Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16446

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015