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In Class Peer Tutoring: A Cost Effective Model For Engineering Instruction

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Best Zone Paper Competition

Tagged Division

Council of Sections

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.714.1 - 14.714.7



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Paper Authors

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Shane Brown Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Cara Poor Washington State University

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

In-Class Peer Tutoring: A Cost-Effective Model for Engineering Instruction


The in-class experience in engineering education has not changed significantly in the last 100 years, although some instructors are attempting to replace didactic teaching with active learning techniques. Despite its promise, the impact of active learning can be limited due to the lack of social learning resources, such as individuals who can answer questions during active learning exercises. Peer tutors can provide this missing resource. A wealth of theoretical and empirical evidence demonstrates that peer tutoring positively impacts learning, self-confidence, and interest in the discipline. In-class peer tutoring (ICPT) addresses the limitations of active learning and utilizes an effective and accessible resource—the students. In ICPT, undergraduate engineering students with relevant experience act as teaching assistants for small groups of students during in-class active learning exercises. In the fall of 2007, Washington State University (WSU) researchers implemented an ICPT program in statics and mechanics of materials. Extensive data from surveys, focus groups, and interviews indicates that the program is valued highly by students and improves learning and self-efficacy. For example, more than 80% of students in these ICPT classes agreed with the statement “I wish my other courses used peer tutors.” Tutors appear to be motivated by the benefits of helping other students without financial reimbursement. WSU’s ongoing ICPT program can act as a model for other universities, demonstrating the potential of peer tutoring to transform engineering education.


The quality of the classroom experience for engineering undergraduates has the potential to impact both retention of engineering students and student preparation for the workforce. Students who leave engineering often cite poor teaching as one of the primary reasons for their decision [1]. Progress has been made in identifying best instructional practices, such as active learning [2] and peer instruction [3-5], which have been shown to improve student learning and attitudes towards learning and retention [3-5]. Active learning techniques include brief in-class exercises in which students work alone or in groups to process concepts more fully than simply taking notes. An integral part of these exercises is the formative assessment process, where students receive feedback through purposive social interactions from other well-prepared students and/or the instructor. Due to large class size in most undergraduate engineering mechanics courses, which often include hundreds of students, instructor feedback is limited. In-class peer tutoring (ICPT) addresses this need and helps fulfill the promise of active learning for engineering education. ICPT programs use undergraduate engineering students with relevant experience as teaching assistants for small groups of students working on active learning exercises. ICPT programs build on best practices in educational research and leverage the directly available and affordable resource of undergraduate students.

Brown, S., & Poor, C. (2009, June), In Class Peer Tutoring: A Cost Effective Model For Engineering Instruction Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--15629

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