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Supporting Student Learning Through Peer-led Course Support Initiatives

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division: Student Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Jenai Kelley Brown Clemson University

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Jenai Kelley Brown has a background in college life coaching as well as career counseling. Before coming to Clemson University, she was a Senior College Life Coach at Florida State University working primarily with first generation college students. Jenai is currently the Assistant Coordinator for Tutoring in Clemson's Academic Success Center where she trains and manages approximately 60 tutors each semester. While her roles in Higher Education have changed, her primary goal has remained to help students recognize and connect to their potential.

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Natalie Stringer Clemson University

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Natalie Stringer is a senior at Clemson University, graduating in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in Microbiology. She has worked at the Academic Success Center as an organic chemistry tutor for four semesters. After completing CRLA Level 3 certification, Natalie served the tutoring program in a mentoring capacity as well, acting as a liaison between her colleagues in the sciences and the Assistant Coordinator for Tutoring. Natalie will continue her academic career and research efforts at the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Medicine after her time at Clemson.

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Rachel K. Anderson Clemson University

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Rachel Anderson recently earned her PhD in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University. She is now the Assistant Coordinator for Clemson’s Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) program. Her research interests include cross-disciplinary teamwork, student development, and program assessment. Rachel received a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University and a B.S. in Physics from Baldwin-Wallace University.

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Laurel Whisler Clemson University

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Laurel Whisler is Assistant Director and Coordinator of Course Support Programs in Clemson University’s Westmoreland Academic Success Program. In this capacity, she provides vision and direction for the Tutoring and Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) programs and provides support to the General Engineering Learning Community. She is also co-developer of Entangled Learning, a model of rigorously-documented, self-directed learning in communities of practice. She has an M.A. in Music from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.L.S. from Indiana University.

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This complete, evidence-based practice paper will detail three student support programs at our university that utilize peer support as a guide for students as they work toward becoming self-directed learners. Our approach includes tutoring, MATHLab, and peer collaborative learning programs housed in the learning support center at our university.

This paper will detail these programs which have each been in place for more than 15 years. These programs employ nearly 200 trained, undergraduate peer leaders who carry out the day-to-day operations of each program. These undergraduate employees offer tutoring and collaborative learning sessions for nearly 18,000 students enrolled in supported courses. While our programs offer support for a large fraction of the university’s enrollment, the majority of students who utilize these programs are freshmen and sophomores enrolled in STEM courses. Our peer-led support approach is unique compared to other institutional support mechanisms that often rely on graduate students and/or staff to handle program operations. However, this peer-led approach requires more in-depth training for peer leaders to ensure they understand and utilize methods to foster self-directed learning in other students. Our peer leader training experience includes an initial day with all newly hired leaders followed by a second day where both new and returning leaders come together to build community and dig deeper into approaches and techniques. New peer leaders then continue their training in a semester-long course where they explore student learning development, engage with helpful resources, and share challenges and successes as they perform their job duties outside the course.

Our peer leaders model effective learning strategies as they support and challenge students to take ownership of their own learning. We will pull from survey data as well as qualitative data to outline some of the learning skills students are exposed to as they participate in these programs. Our goal in sharing this information is to showcase what we have learned from evaluating our programs and provide considerations for others as they work toward increasing the learning capacity of their students.

Brown, J. K., & Stringer, N., & Anderson, R. K., & Whisler, L. (2018, June), Supporting Student Learning Through Peer-led Course Support Initiatives Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31036

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: © 2018 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