PLTL program to stop after this semester
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
As another semester comes to a close, so does a peer-leading program that UTEP has employed over the last two years for its introductory chemistry, biology, physics and math students.
“Peer Led Team Learning has been going on in chemistry with the support from external funds,” said Anny Morrobel-Sosa, dean of the College of Science. “Those funds are now depleted. To get them back, the faculty has to submit grant proposals to the funds.”
PLTL, or Peer Led Team Learning, has been a staple in the core curriculum for freshman and sophomore students entering into large university classrooms from high school, enabling them to get the questions answered and hands-on experience they might not receive during a lecture. But the spring 2012 semester is the last semester UTEP will offer the program.
“The workshop is led by the so-called peer-leader, who is an undergraduate and who has taken that class earlier on during the semester or during previous semesters, and that peer-leader has graduated that class for which he or she peer-leads with a B or higher,” said Mahesh Narayan, associate professor of chemistry and one of the organizers for the PLTL program.
The peer-led workshops contain around 15 students and meet once a week for two hours aside from regular class lecture. The first portion of the workshop is explorations, which is where students are able to interact with the material they are learning and relate it to outside of the classroom.
“It’s a little more practice than they actually get to do in the lecture,” said Mariana Pablo, senior biological sciences major, who has been involved with the peer-leading program for a year.
The relationship between the peer-leaders and the professors is a close-knit one, with good communication being vital in organizing peer-leading meetings and keeping up with students and their progress. The peer leaders are employees of the university and are in charge of assigning homework and grading, and may be responsible for keeping track of two or three groups of 15 or so students, whatever their schedule permits outside of their own class work and other jobs.
Leslie Luna De Lara, senior biological sciences major and peer leader for two years, said whatever the leaders report to the professors about students complaining or extra credit assignments, the professors take into consideration and act on it.
“Teams are a lot more comfortable with us than they are with the professors, of course they’re not going to go complain to a professor, but they can complain to us that they feel something’s wrong with the lecture or with the workshop,” Luna De Lara said.
Narayan said that intimidation of the university setting could make students afraid of approaching the instructor so students tend to drop classes, or transfer to EPCC and take a class there because it might be taught differently.
“(Students) are afraid of me as a lecturer, of asking a question in class and that’s normal. So their performance in such a classroom setting might not be up to what they might have anticipated it to be,” Narayan said.
According to Narayan, PLTL has benefited the university with a decrease in drop rates, as well as an increase in retention and an increase in the pass rate, which means C or higher in these fundamental courses.
“To me, we need to capture the incoming class very early on, so for me, it is like a set of training wheels when you first learn to ride bicycles, eventually those training wheels must come off and you must be able to go on your own,” Narayan said.
As for the experience and skills peer leaders take from this program, both Luna De Lara and Pablo said leadership experience, time management skills, working with different personalities, learning how to talk to people, addressing situations properly and networking were big concepts they have learned through their time with PLTL.
“I’ve always been good with making time for everything but I’ve gotten better, overall I think I’m just a more well-rounded person,” Pablo said.
Amber Watts may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.