Peer-Assisted Learning Helps Students Succeed
The Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) program at NMU, which began as a pilot last semester, offers intensive tutoring for the more challenging introductory courses – those with the highest percentage of Ds, Fs and withdrawals. Preliminary data suggests that students who elected to participate had a higher success rate than those who did not.
“Supplemental instruction of this type has been used successfully for years,” said Bill Bernard. “The only drawback is that it might initially be perceived as being expensive. You’re paying an upperclassman to attend class, take notes and facilitate group discussions so that the students receive the motivation and guidance that will help them to develop effective study skills. The student has taken the class before, knows the subject matter and can relate to the participants on the same level. There’s no question it works; we’re just hoping to show that the improved academic success is worth the financial investment. Based on the raw data, it looks like it will be.”
With a grant from the NMU Foundation, PAL was tested in four class sections last semester. While waiting for complete data, Bernard said of the 140 students who participated, 4 percent received Fs and 2 percent withdrew, which is a significant improvement over past semesters. Of the 600 students who chose not to participate, 10 percent received Fs and 14 percent withdrew. PAL is continuing this winter, after which administrators will assess the data and decide whether to make it a permanent addition and expand on what is already offered.
“There are other services at Northern designed to increase students’ academic success,” said Jim Gadzinski (Academic and Career Advisement Center). “We’ve offered tutoring and plenty of study groups. In fact, we’ll have about 80 groups running by the end of this semester. PAL is more intensive than either of these because the student employee is directly involved in the same class, but they’re all part of a continuing effort to help students achieve success early in their careers at Northern so they can continue on with their programs.”