The Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based, Peer-Mentored Learning on Undergraduate Student Performance: A Case for Discipline-Specific Learning Centres
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
Dr. Margi Böhm
Senior Lecturer, Director of the Science Resource Center, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra
Deputy Director of the Science Resource Centre, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra