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Using peer-assisted learning in mathematics and physics in higher education in Sweden and Russia
University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Land Surveying and Mathematics.
2010 (English)In: British Educational Research Association conference 2010: BERA 2010, 1-4 Sept, University of Warwick, Warwick, 2010, p. 0581-Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper explores students' experience of peer tutor system in Mathematics and Physics education in two contrasting settings. The first one is a traditional classroom environment with a teacher centred educational process, the other is tutorials in the higher education where a range of student-centred teaching and learning methods has already been introduced [1-3].

The education systems in Europe are facing new challenges in preparing young people for their social and professional integration, successful career and personal development in the modern knowledge-based society. The implementation of this task influences approaches to teaching and learning in so far as greater emphasis is placed on learner, learning outcomes and student competence. As a consequence, the old educational paradigm and didactical approaches which stress knowledge acquisition are being replaced by new pedagogical approaches with a focus on students and their learning process, particular on meeting learning outcomes and students' competence development.

The appropriate choice of teaching methods is instrumental to a successful implementation this task. Fostering effective teaching and learning methods such as discussions, group work, case studies, problem-based learning, peer-assisted learning and critical thinking facilitates the acquisition of professional skills and competences.

This paper explores the opportunities for fostering peer assisted learning (PAL) in teaching Physics at A-level and in delivering Mathematics at the university level. The study was carried out at University Väst, Sweden and School No 99 (with profound mathematics and physics education, in association with Moscow State Institute of Radio-engineering, Electronics and Automation), Moscow, Russia. The Physics education curriculum in this school corresponds to the first year curriculum in the UK and Swedish universities.

There is a substantial body of literature on the PAL methodology. [e.g. 4, 5]. PAL is an example of a student-to student support scheme grounded in collaborative learning. PAL is aimed to improve student performance and to develop a range of study skills through creating an informal environment for learning. This method has been applied across a range of disciplines and is becoming an important part in programmes' delivery.

The carried out research had the following objectives:

to explore opportunities for fostering PAL in traditional classroom and in university practice to enhance students' performance.to evaluate and compare the quality of students' experience of using PAL in both settings;to analyse the challenges teachers face in implementing innovative approaches to teaching and learning in two different settings.

 

Methodology

Our study was carried out in 2008. 31 A-level student studying Physics and 42 first year students on the 'Land Surveyors' undergraduate programme participated in this study. PAL sessions have been incorporated into the Physics subject and 'Core  Mathematics' module delivery. The lectures were delivered in a traditional way; several PAL sessions were introduced during tutorials.

The students worked in groups of five. A-level students were grouped according to their performance. The university students were randomly divided into groups.

A peer tutor from the same student cohort was assigned to each group and trained. Peer tutors were selected from the more advanced students. The tutors decided themselves which teaching method they were going to use.

The questionnaire was designed to evaluate the students' learning experience. In addition, the peer tutors were interviewed. The results of the survey were statistically analysed and compared with the previous test results.

Findings

Our findings showed that all A-level students and over 60% of the students at University Vast evaluated PAL method as useful and valuable. The students highly rated collaboration with peers and commented that it was easier to ask questions, get support and explanation. Over 80% of A-level students and over 50% of university students felt that PAL stimulated their activity. They felt that they were more in control of their learning and found it more enjoyable. However, the university students, having experienced the use of problem based learning (PBL), rated PBL higher than PAL.

Both student samples positively evaluated the peer tutors' performance.

Our study showed that the number of students enrolled on the course, the choice of peer tutors and timing of the sessions are crucial for the successful implementation of PAL. The test results showed an improvement in student grades.

The paper concludes with recommendations for fostering PAL.

References

Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E. "Problem-based Learning and competence development: a Case Study of Teaching Mathematics to Computer Science Students", Journal of Research in Teacher Education, 2007, No 3. p 13-21.Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E, "Developing students' competences through problem based learning: a case study of delivering 'Decision Mathematics' module on Computer Science programme". Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference BERA 2008, Edinburgh, September, 2008Luchinskaya E., Nilsson G. and Williams C., "Developing students' competences in the light of Bologna process: the responses from Sweden and Russia". Paper presented at the European Educational Research Conference, ECER 2008, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 2008.Peer Assisted Learning, Topping, K. and Ehly, S. (Eds.), Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998 Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, Volume 12, Issue 2 June 2001 , pages 113 - 132Peer Learning in Higher Education. Learning from & with each other. Boud D., Cohen R. and Sampson J.(Eds.) Kogan Page, 2001. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. p. 0581-
National Category
Computational Mathematics
Research subject
Mathematics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-3095OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-3095DiVA, id: diva2:392237
Note
För fulltext kontakta konferens eller författareAvailable from: 2011-01-26 Created: 2011-01-26 Last updated: 2011-02-04Bibliographically approved

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