, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 87-100

Collegiality in the classroom: The use of Peer Learning Assistants in cooperative learning in introductory biology

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Experienced undergraduate students served as Peer Learning Assistants (PLAs) to facilitate group process and dynamics in cooperative learning groups. The use of this model in large classes (150 students) resulted in statistically significant improvements in group performance and satisfaction with the group experience. PLAs defused conflict in groups which were, by their cognitively diverse nature, conflict-prone. Student attitudes about their PLAs and PLA attitudes about the experience were positive. Faculty productivity was substantially enhanced because group dynamics problems rarely landed in the faculty office.

James E. Groccia is the Director of the Program for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He received the Ed.D. in Educational and Counseling Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Ms.Ed. in Social Science Education from Hofstra University, and the B.A. in Psychology from Hartwick College. Judith E. Miller is Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts. She received the Ph.D. in Microbiology from Case Western Reserve University and the B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. Her special interests include the restructuring of technical courses to include cooperative learning and educational productivity.