The Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based, Peer-Mentored Learning on Undergraduate Student Performance: A Case for Discipline-Specific Learning Centres

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The Science Resource Centre (SRC) within the Faculty of Applied Science runs an Enhanced Learning Program (ELP) that utilises inquiry based pedagogies through peer-mentoring. The program supports first and second year science units using paid peer mentors who are undergraduate students in their 2nd or higher year. The program is timetabled but runs outside of traditional teaching within units and attendance at sessions is voluntary. This paper discusses the outcomes of the program in terms of student grades and experiences for the teaching year 2008. The SRC offered 515 hours of ELP sessions in 2008 and serviced twelve large first and second year units. Data were collected on student attendance and a student survey was conducted at the end of the year. Assessment marks were obtained from unit convenors for six core first and second year units covering cell biology, chemistry, anatomy and statistics. These data allow investigation of the effect that attendance at ELP sessions had on student performance together with analysis of other influences such as gender, assessment type, and university entrance scores. The results show that students who attended ELP sessions achieved grades 5–25% higher on average than those who did not; no single assessment type stood out as benefiting most from attendance at ELP sessions across all units; both males and females benefited in all units except chemistry, where males benefitted more than females; and there appears to be no statistically significant correlation between university entrance score and grades for the six units studied.

Keywords: Learning Strategies, Peer Feedback and Mentoring, Self Learning, Lifelong Learning
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Margi Böhm

Senior Lecturer, Director of the Science Resource Center, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra
Canberra, ACT, Australia

Margi Böhm is course convenor for B. Environmental Science degree and Director of the Science Resource Center, a facility for science students that encourages interaction and debate together with enhanced learning outside of traditional units. Margi came to the University of Canberra in 2002 from an active research career in atmospheric science where she has worked on acid rain, effects of air pollutants on plants, biologically meaningful statistics towards setting of air quality standards and more recently on the micro-meteorology within model plant canopies. At the University of Canberra, Margi has extended her interests to teaching pedagogy where she, together with colleague Nancy FitzSimmons, have revitalised the first year teaching program in the biological, medical and environmental sciences from traditional teaching methods to an inquiry based model complete with “ask the audience” facilities in lectures. Margi has extended this experience to sports coaching where she has developed practical techniques to help speed up skills acquisition by athletes in high skill sports. In the research arena, Margi is working with local ACT and NSW schools on alternative teaching practises in science education. She is also involved with micro-meteorological research into scalar transfer with colleagues at CSIRO.

Imogen Moore

Deputy Director of the Science Resource Centre, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra
Canberra, ACT, Australia

Imogen has recently completed her Honours degree in ecochemistry. She is a dedicated educator and environmental scientist. Imogen works with Margi in the Science Resource Center and is mainly responsible for managing the Enhanced Learning Program.

Ref: L09P1478