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Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL)

Can a collaborative, "research group" environment be created for students in the laboratory?
 The PLTL Model

Two of the aspects of research that make it such a meaningful experience for students are cooperative teamwork and mentorship. In order to preserve this important aspect of research in the CASPiE model, while still using a laboratory course framework, we incorporated the Peer-Led Team Learning model. Students in the laboratory work in teams of three. Students who have recently completed the course, have done well, and demonstrate good communication and leadership skills serve as peer leaders. The role of the peer leaders is to facilitate group work for two teams, a total of six students, whose collective goal is to master the skills necessary to become independent researchers. These include skills such as literature searches, appropriate recording of data, approaches to data analysis, appropriate steps in design of an experimental procedure, discussion of ethics in the laboratory, and presentation of findings in poster and oral formats.

The peer leaders are not teaching assistants in the traditional sense. They are not responsible for grading the students nor for helping to design the curriculum of the course. There are graduate TA’s associated with these courses who have these responsibilities, along with helping run the course day-to-day. The leaders are enthusiastic and motivated students who assist their peers in negotiating meaning and having fruitful dialog in their project teams. They help to promote the kinds of learning activities that people generally engage in as part of a research group. Data collected from nine institutions that have implemented the PLTL model show that students place a high value on the PLTL activities and find it helpful to their learning.

For more information see the Center for Peer-led Team Learning website.

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