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.