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Peer-Led Team Learning in an Introductory Calculus Course

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 3

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Paper Authors


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

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James E. Lewis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems, cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

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Gerold Willing University of Louisville

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Gerold (Jerry) A. Willing is an Associate Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Louisville. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University. Dr. Willing’s expertise lies in the development of complex fluid systems for practical applications and characterization of their properties and stability. He has additional interests in water utility infrastructure materials and their impact on water quality, electroactive hydrogels, soft-lithography techniques, Peer-Led-Team-Learning, and development of a students engineering identity.

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Thomas D. Rockaway University of Louisville

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The Partnership for Retention Improvement in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (PRIMES) is an NSF STEP program being implemented in three different schools: Engineering, Education, and Arts and Sciences, and across nine different departments at the University of XXXX. The cornerstone of this program is the development of Peer-Led-Team-Learning (PLTL) communities in several of the foundation courses for each of the participating departments. A fundamental concept of the communities approach is to utilize undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs). When mentors/peer leaders (UTAs) are closer to their age and/or experience, students in the course are more comfortable and more likely to be engaged.

The exact implementation of PLTL model varies between schools, departments, and courses, but every implementation uses UTAs to present material and/or to provide help with homework problems. Within the departments and courses assessed at the XXX School of Engineering, implementation of the PLTL model has varied between using external volunteer attendance sessions versus mandatory in-class sessions. Each implementation style has advantages and disadvantages.

External volunteer attendance sessions allow for a better relationship between the peer leader and the student attendees. The disadvantage of a volunteer session is that participation by students is reduced unless attendance is heavily incentivized. The mandatory in-class peer led groups have the advantage of greater attendance, and instant feedback on lecture materials. However, depending on the implementation of the course, this method may reduce instructor led class time. The in-class method can also be chaotic in the classroom with multiple peer leaders simultaneously meeting in groups. Group work in general may also foster a false impression of understanding the topics, since students work the problems correctly in a group setting.

This paper will provide an introduction to the PRIMES program, and a description of one course created using a variation of the emporium model to deliver an Introductory Calculus course, using UTAs to foster learning in the class meetings. The modified emporium model has dedicated course meeting times where students are required to attend the assembly much like a traditional course. This past semester there were six sections of this course taught. All six sections were led by UTAs, with four sections utilizing three person groups. The other two sections used the same materials and were led by UTAs without the three person groups. The course also uses online interactive and educational software to deliver the material and automatically grade the students’ assignments.

Lewis, J. E., & Willing, G., & Rockaway, T. D. (2016, June), Peer-Led Team Learning in an Introductory Calculus Course Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25874

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