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Access at Crossroads: Learning Assistance in Higher Ed., D. Arendale   Click this web link to learn about my recent book

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     Access at the Crossroads Blog

    These blog entires identify best practices to increase success for historically-underrepresented college students including excerpts from my book, Access at the CrossroadsClick here to subscribe to this blog.


    Bridging the experiential learning gap: An evaluation of the impacts of Ulster University's Senior Student Tutoring Scheme on first year students. 

    Eaton, M. D. (2015). Bridging the experiential learning gap: An evaluation of the impacts of Ulster University's Senior Student Tutoring Scheme on first year students. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 12(2), article 6. Retrieved from

    Since 2004-05 first year students at the School of Environmental Sciences, Ulster University have engaged with senior student tutors (SSTs) in workshop activities aimed at preparations for their written examinations. Using a pedagogical action research methodology we evaluated the role of SSTs in bridging the experiential learning gap between practitioners and recipients. Analysis suggested positive associations between workshop participation, examination success and improved module marks. Surveys showed that first year students gained confidence, were less intimidated and empowered with revision and examination techniques. The SSTs gained valuable insights, tutoring experience and an evidence base useful to their career paths. Discussion focused upon risk-averse first year students who grasped and then transformed the experiences of the SSTs into successful examination performance. It is argued that our SSTs have helped to bridge the experiential learning gap and made inter-collegiate connections that would have been less-likely in a formal, teaching staff-led situation. Faculty suffering from examination related student progression problems could, therefore, benefit from adopting this locally controlled, low cost, small-scale, tailor-made, peer assisted tutoring scheme.

    To download the complete annotated bibliography of more than 1,100 citations of postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs, click on the following link,


    History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: 1870s through Mid-1940s

    The following is an excerpt from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  Click on the box in the left column to learn more about it.  Too often the history of learning assistance and developmental education is misunderstood or ignored.  This is important for today's policy debates about access programs.

    The third phase of postsecondary education history began during the late 1800s and continued until World War II. The major activities during this era were expansion of tutoring and incorporation of remedial courses in the col­lege curriculum. Academic preparatory academies had been the temporary home for this curriculum earlier in the 1800s. The most frequent service con­tinued to be individual and group tutoring. White male students from privi­leged cultural and economic backgrounds still dominated college campuses. Women and students of color attended newly established institutions reserved for them. These institutions also embraced remedial courses.

    Relationship of the Federal Government and Learning Assistance

    The federal government increased direct involvement with postsecondary edu­cation during this time. The First Morrill Act (1862) established land-grant colleges, which was the federal government’s first significant financial involve­ment with postsecondary education. The mission of these new colleges fos­tered new degree programs in applied education such as agriculture and the mechanical arts. Established denominational private institutions had not pre­viously offered this curriculum. This action broadened the curriculum and increased access for students of modest academic preparation and lower socio­economic backgrounds.

    Although colleges offered wider access through the 1862 Morrill Act, aca­demic preparation of potential students remained uneven. Many new college students had not attended public high school, as few were in operation in the expanding West of the United States. The dramatic widening of access to post­secondary education accelerated development of academic departments that offered remedial courses and tutoring deemed essential for the new students. “Iowa State College simply required that entering freshman be fourteen years old and able to read, write, and do arithmetic. However, when they lacked these skills, students were placed in the college’s preparatory department” (Maxwell, 1997, p. 11). College enrollments soared and many of these new students enrolled in remedial courses. Offering remedial courses and other learning assistance services in a college department addressed many of the problems experienced by external academic preparatory academies such as lack of coordinated curriculum, poor teaching facilities, lack of proper adminis­trative control, and increased stigma for participating students. These prob­lems were the result of the very nature of these academies, as they were clearly separate and seen just as a prerequisite to the college experience.

    Remedial Education

    The need for academic preparatory departments increased with admission of more students that were academically underprepared. Eighty-four percent of land-grant institutions offered remedial courses by the late 1880s (Craig, 1997). The most frequent term used to describe learning assistance from the 1860s through the early 1960s was “remedial education.” Remedial education targeted students’ specific skill deficits and employed new educational approaches. Clowes (1980) applied an analogy of the traditional medical model for reme­dial education. Academic weakness was detected through assessment. The prob­lem was hoped to be cured through prescribed treatment. Clowes categorized students enrolled in remedial education as “academically backward or less able students” (p. 8). Repeated academic treatment persisted until students achieved the desired outcomes or “cures.” Students possessed many academic deficits needing prescriptive remediation. Remedial education focused on cognitive deficits and not on improvements in the affective domain. An early glossary developed by the College Reading and Learning Association defined remedial as “instruction designed to remove a student’s deficiencies in the basic entry or exit level skills at a prescribed level of proficiency in order to make him/her competitive with peers” (Rubin, 1991, p. 9). Remedial students were identi­fied as “students who are required to participate in specific academic improve­ment courses/programs as a condition of entry to college” (p. 9).

    Remedial education was a prerequisite to enrolling in college-level courses. Remedial courses focused on acquiring skills and knowledge at the secondary school level. Developmental courses, on the other hand, developed skills above the exit level from high school that were needed for success in college. These courses entered the college curriculum during the next historical phase.

    In 1879 Harvard admitted 50 percent of applicants “on condition” because they failed the entrance examination. Tutorial programs initially designed for success with college entrance exams were expanded to assist these provision­ally admitted students to succeed in their college courses (Weidner, 1990). The Harvard Reports of 1892, 1895, and 1897 documented poor academic prepa­ration of admitted students. University administrators were surprised to dis­cover that students who suffered academic difficulty were not only those from poor or nonexistent high school education. Instead, it was also the “picked boys” (Goodwin, 1895, p. 292), students from the upper class of U.S. society (Hill, 1885). Provision of tutoring and remedial credit courses demonstrated academic rigor at Harvard and exceeded the academic preparation level even for students with formal preparation for postsecondary education. The gap between academic preparation and college performance placed many of the elite students in need of learning assistance (Brier, 1984).

    Remedial Courses in the Curriculum

    By 1874 Harvard was first to offer a first-year remedial English course in response to faculty complaints that too many students lacked competency for formal writing activities. Harvard was the first institution that permitted elec­tive courses in response to changing needs of the curriculum. Without flexi­bility with course options, remedial courses would have been available only as a precollege option. Academic conditions remained unchanged at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia by 1907 when half the students failed to earn the minimum composite entrance exam score. Harvard offered a remedial reading course beginning in the early 1900s (Brubacher and Rudy, 1976).

    One of the earliest manifestations of college-level learning assistance was the remedial course. The most frequent remedial courses were reading and study skills. More than 350 colleges in 1909 offered “how to study” classes for academically underprepared students. The U.S. Commissioner for Education reported in 1913 that approximately 80 percent of postsecondary institutions offered college preparatory programs with a wide variety of services, includ­ing tutoring and remedial courses (Maxwell, 1979). This rate was nearly the same as the mid-1800s. Sensitive to perceptions by students, professors, and others, many colleges began to redefine remedial activities to make them more acceptable by students and campus administrators. When the director of Har­vard’s Bureau of Study Counsel renamed Remedial Reading to the Reading Class, enrollment increased from thirty to four hundred annually in 1938 (Wyatt, 1992). Through the introduction of the first developmental course, provision of noncredit academic support, and careful use of language to describe its services and course offerings, the learning assistance field owes much to the leadership and innovations of Harvard University.

    Junior colleges (later renamed community colleges) extended the new sec­ondary school movement in the early 1900s. Among the broad mission of many junior colleges was college academic preparation. An analogy for this focus on serving academically underprepared students is calling them “the Ellis Island of higher education” (Vaughan, 1983, p. 9). Many four-year institu­tions transferred their academic preparatory programs to junior colleges in the early 1900s. As described earlier, standardized admissions test scores permit­ted colleges to refer students to different types of institutions that maintained varying levels of admission selectivity. As four-year institutions received more state and federal appropriations, the institutional financial profile improved. The need to admit high numbers of students who needed academic help to generate tuition revenue and meet institutional expenses lessened (Richard­son, Martens, and Fisk, 1981).

    A national survey in 1929 of institutions revealed about one-fourth of sur­vey respondents confirmed that their college assessed reading with the admis­sion examination. Nearly half of all students were enrolled in remedial courses (Parr, 1930). These courses often focused heavily on reading skills. Nearly 90 percent of respondents stated they had not conducted research studies regard­ing the effectiveness of their learning assistance program (Parr, 1930). Soci­etal changes in the middle of the twentieth century required a major expansion of learning assistance to meet a rapidly growing student body—growing in its diversity and level of academic preparation for college-level work.

    to be continued. . .


    Peer-Led Team Learning helps minority students succeed

    Snyder, J. J., Sloane, J. D., Dunk, R. D. P., & Wiles, J. R. (2016). Peer-Led Team Learning helps minority students succeed. PLOS Biology, 14(3). doi: doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002398. Retrieved from

    Active learning methods have been shown to be superior to traditional lecture in terms of student achievement, and our findings on the use of Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) concur. Students in our introductory biology course performed significantly better if they engaged in PLTL. There was also a drastic reduction in the failure rate for underrepresented minority (URM) students with PLTL, which further resulted in closing the achievement gap between URM and non-URM students. With such compelling findings, we strongly encourage the adoption of Peer-Led Team Learning in undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses.

    The entire annotated bibliography of more than 1,100 citations concerning postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs can be downloaded by clicking the following link,


    The causal effects of the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) on educational outcomes

    Paloyn, A. R., Rogan, S., & Siminski, P. (2016). The causal effects of the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) on educational outcomes. Retrieved from

    This report summarises the results of a HEPPP-funded research project on the effects of the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) on educational outcomes. The study used a randomised encouragement design (RED), which avoids the potential problem of selection bias that pervades non-experimental evaluations.  Globally, this is the first large-scale experiment on the effectiveness of PASS or related Supplemental Instruction programmes.The study population consists of 6954 student subject observations from 14 first-year courses at the University of Wollongong in Australia in 2014 and 2015. Following the RED approach, a randomly selected sub-group was offered a large, near-cash incentive to participate in PASS. Whilst PASS participation is voluntary and unrestricted, participation was 0.47 sessions (19 percent) greater for the incentivised group compared to the non-incentivised group. This inducement effect is larger for students from low-SES areas (0.89 sessions). But the overall inducement effect is smaller than anticipated, which limits the statistical power of the main analysis, especially for subgroups. We also varied the size of the incentive greatly between semesters, but this did not meaningfully change the size of the inducement effect. The design of effective incentives for student populations warrants further research. The experiment suggests that one hour of PASS improved grades by 0.065 standard deviations (1.26 marks on a raw 100-point scale), which is consistent with the non-experimental literature. However, this estimate is not statistically significant, reflecting limited statistical power. The estimated effect is largest and statistically significant for students in their first semester at university (0.153 standard deviations or almost 3 marks per hour of PASS). This particular sub-group analysis was not in our preanalysis plan, and so it should be treated as a suggestive–rather than a confirmatory –result. Nevertheless, it remains plausible given issues around transitioning into a university environment, including the more independent, self-directed study skills and time management required in tertiary study, as well as the need for structure and social support. We had intended to study heterogeneity of effects for a number of other subgroups (by socioeconomic status, rural and indigenous backgrounds, age, sex, domestic/international status, and high school grades), but this was not feasible because of limited statistical power.

    To download the complete annotated bibliography of 1,100+ citations of postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs, click on the following link,


    Mathematics communication within the frame of Supplemental Instruction – SOLO and ATD analysis

    Holm, A., & Pelger, S. (2016). Mathematics communication within the frame of Supplemental Instruction – SOLO and ATD analysis. Conference Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education, Prague, Czech Republic. Retrieved from

    Teaching at Swedish primary and secondary schools is often combined with collaborative exercises in a variety of subjects. One such method for learning together is Supplemental instruction (SI). Several studies have been made to evaluate SI in universities throughout the world, while at lower levels hardly any study has been made until now. This study aimed at identifying learning conditions in SI-sessions at two Swedish upper secondary schools. Within this study, a combination of ATD (Anthropological theory of the didactic) and the SOLO-taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome) was successfully tried as an analysis strategy.

    To access the complete annotated bibliography of more than 1,100 references to postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs, click on the following link,


    Assessing the impact of a muilti-disciplinary Peer Led-Team Learning program on undergraduate STEM education. 

    Carlson, K., Celotta, D. T., Curran, E., Marcus, M., & Loe, M. (2016). Assessing the impact of a muilti-disciplinary Peer Led-Team Learning program on undergraduate STEM education. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 13(1), article 1. Retrieved from

    There has been a national call to transition away from the traditional, passive, lecture-based model of STEM education towards one that facilitates learning through active engagement and problem solving. This mixed methods research study examines the impact of a supplemental Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) program on knowledge and skill acquisition for students in introductory biology, chemistry, calculus and applied statistics courses. Results indicate program participants reliably outperform their matched pairs in courses that emphasize quantitative reasoning. Moreover, program participants report acquiring important insights about learning, collaboration, and engagement in undergraduate STEM education. These results are consistent with previous findings on PLTL and also provide insight into the roles of course context and student population on program outcomes.

    To download the entire annotated bibliography of over 1,100 references to postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs, click on the following web link,


    2016 Annotated Bibliograpy of Postsecondary Peer Cooperative Learning Programs Updated

    For many years I have maintained an annotated bibliography of publications about peer learning programs at the postsecondary level. I wanted to share it more widely with others so it is provided in several forms:  PDF, Word, and EndNote database.  Please observe the license under which it is made available for your personal and scholarly use.  The unabridged version of the bibliography is now 399 pages.  [Click this link to reach the annonated bibliography page, ]  If you download the EndNote database, be sure to also download the keyword guide which I created to code each entry to make searching easier.

    This annotated bibliography does not attempt to be inclusive of this broad field of literature concerning peer collaborative learning.  Instead, it is focused intentionally on a subset of the educational practice that shares a common focus with increasing student academic achievement and persistence towards graduation.

    The seven student peer learning programs included in this bibliography meet the following characteristics: (a) the program must have been implemented at the postsecondary or tertiary level; (b) the program has a clear set of systematic procedures for its implementation that could be replicated by another institution; (c) program evaluation studies have been conducted and are available for review; (d) the program intentionally embeds learning strategy practice along with review of the academic content material; (e) the program outcomes include increased content knowledge, higher final course grades, higher pass rates, and higher college persistence rates; and (f) the program has been replicated at another institution with similar positive student outcomes. From a review of the professional literature, six programs emerged: (a) Accelerated Learning Groups (ALGs), (b) Emerging Scholars Program (ESP), (c) Peer Assisted Learning (PAL), (d) Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), (e) Structured Learning Assistance (SLA), (f) Supplemental Instruction (SI), and (g) Video-based Supplemental Instruction (VSI).  As will be described in the following narrative, some of the programs share common history and seek to improve upon previous practices.Other programs were developed independently.

    Regrets for scholarship I have overlooked.  Please send me items you think should be included in the next edition.  Happy reading.

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