Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 87-100

First online:

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

  • James E. Groccia
  • , Judith E. Miller

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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.