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Peer-led Team Learning in Early General Engineering Curriculum

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 1: It's All About Teams and Teamwork

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1221.1 - 26.1221.10



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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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Thomas D. Rockaway University of Louisville

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Peer-Led-Team-Learning in Early General Engineering CurriculumAbstractThe Partnership for Retention Improvement in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science(PRIMES) is an NSF STEP program being implemented across nine different departments inthree different schools (Engineering, Education, and Arts and Sciences) at the University of XX.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. Theunderlying concept of this approach is students will feel more comfortable and are more likely toengage when mentors are closer to their same age or experience.The exact implementation of PLTL model varies between courses, but every implementationuses an undergraduate student to present material and to provide help with homework problems.Within the courses assessed, implementation of the PLTL model has varied between usingexternal volunteer attendance sessions versus mandatory in-class sessions. Each of theseimplementation styles has advantages and disadvantages. External volunteer attendance sessionsallow for a better relationship between the peer leader and the attendees. The disadvantage ofmaking it a volunteer session is reduced participation unless it is heavily incentivized. Themandatory in-class peer led groups have the advantage of greater attendance, and instantfeedback on lecture materials. However, this reduces instructor led class time and can be chaoticin the classroom with multiple peer leaders simultaneously meeting in groups. It can also fostera false impression of understanding the topics, since students worked the problems correctly in agroup.Based on the XXX Engineering School’s implementation of PRIMES, the observed outcomeshave been an improved attitude of students participating the program and improved studentperformance. Academically, students at different performance levels receive different benefitsfrom participating in this program. Students already preforming at high levels deepen theirknowledge by the experience of explaining concepts to their classmates. Midlevel studentsbenefit by having complex material explained in a variety of different formats. Ultimately, thiskeeps both groups engaged throughout the class. In addition to the academic gains, participatingstudents appear to gain a greater attachment to their engineering identity and will discuss theirfuture goals with their peer mentors.Initial evaluation of the PRIMES program in three undergraduate departments indicates thatincluding peer mentors in the educational process is beneficial to the student, but may be moreappropriately quantified by a subtle shift in academic performance, an enlarged sense ofcommunity, and an increased commitment to their degree programs. Ultimately, these are verybeneficial results, but are very difficult to quantify.

Lewis, J. E., & Willing, G., & Rockaway, T. D. (2015, June), Peer-led Team Learning in Early General Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24558

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