Peering through the gate: the effect of near peer teachers on student learning outcomes and satisfaction in large enrollment courses
Thompson, Meredith Myra
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Introductory undergraduate science, math, and engineering courses are often large, competitive classes with challenging learning environments. This mixed method study investigates the effect of incorporating undergraduate students who have recently taken the course, or near peers, on the satisfaction and learning outcomes of students who are taking these types of courses at Boston University. Quantitative data were gathered through a survey of 1,000 students in five large science and engineering courses exploring how student background, study strategies, and course experiences influence student satisfaction and final course grade. The quantitative model shows that students who prefer to study in groups tend to be more positive about the peer teachers and the small group sessions in which these students work, but tend to be less satisfied with the course and tend to have slightly lower final course grades than students who do not use group work as a study strategy outside of class. Qualitative data were gathered in the form of classroom observations, focus groups of students, and interviews of peer teachers. The qualitative results show that students in these courses prioritize doing well in the course, especially on the individually based exams. In contrast, the peer teachers emphasize learning for understanding and working in collaborative groups. Despite the dichotomy between the students' orientation towards grades and the near peers' emphasis on learning, the students in the courses are very satisfied with the near peer teachers. In addition to helping students with course content, the near peer teachers help build students confidence in their ability to succeed, and provide a valuable link to the university community.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University