Educational Theories

Lilly, M., & Sands, J. (2019). Guide for Peer Learning Facilitators. University of Minnesota


The Guide for Peer Learning Facilitators is the foundation of a formal training program at the University of Minnesota, in which undergraduate students learn how to lead weekly study sessions for their peers in a classroom setting for specific courses – primarily ones with high enrollment and prone to higher than average D,F, Withdrawal rates. Training and professional development throughout the academic year have been the cornerstones to the success the facilitators have realized. The eight principles that govern the program – crafted by Dr. David Arendale in his original publication of the same name – address topics such as cooperative learning theory, multicultural competency, metacognition, study strategies, and group dynamics. The book, updated in April 2019, also provides a directory of useable forms and worksheets and a bibliography of related publications.

Validated SSS Practice Added: Integrated Learning Course for Entering SSS College Students

Integrated Learning Course for Entering SSS College Students.  University of Minnesota (approved Validated Practice 8/10/14)  In 1972, the TRIO program leaders at the University of Minnesota developed the Integrated Learning (IL) course to meet academic and transition needs of their Upward Bound (UB) students.  These courses were offered during the UB summer bridge program for its students who were concurrently enrolled in academically-challenging college courses following graduation from high school.  Later, use of IL courses shifted from the UB program to the college-level TRIO Student Support Services program.  Long before the widespread use of learning communities within higher education, the IL course is an example of a linked-course learning community.  A historically-challenging course like an introductory psychology is linked with an IL course.  The IL course is customized to use content of its companion class as context for mastering learning strategies and orienting students to the rigor of the college learning environment.  For the past four decades, the IL course approach has assisted TRIO students improve their academic success in the rigorous academic environment as well as acclimate to the social climate of the University of Minnesota (UMN), one of the largest universities in the United States.  UMN is a Research I Intensive public university with highly selective admissions and high expectations for students by the course professors.  Two quasi-experimental studies examined the possible benefits of the IL course.  One was in connection with a General Psychology course. The IL course students earned statistically significantly higher final course grades than nonparticipants.  Another study with a General Biology course replicated the results of higher final course grades for the IL course students.  The IL courses fostered not only higher final course grades, but also expanded positive study behaviors and their metacognitive skills necessary for academic success.  [Click on this link to download this best education practice.]

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Video from YouTube

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a learning approach to maximize learning for everyone in the classroom or with a student development activity. This humorous YouTube video explains the three major principles of UDL. <Click on this link for more information about UDL.>

New Publication: Understanding the Peer Assisted Learning Model

Since 2006, the PAL program at the University of Minnesopta has contributed to improved academic performance of participating PAL students in rigorous introductory-level college courses.The program is built upon best practices from previous international peer learning models like Supplemental Instruction, Peer-led Team Learning, Emerging Scholars Program, and others.  PAL is also guided by learning theories such as Universal Design for Learning to make the model more culturally-sensitive and embedded within the courses to increase its effectiveness for all students.  Both quantitative and qualitative studies of PAL validate its effectiveness for increasing academic success of participating students and fostering development of personal and social skills.  In addition to benefits for the participants, the PAL experience benefits PAL facilitators through deeper mastery of rigorous course material, increased confidence in public speaking and small group management skills, and encouragement to pursue a teaching career.  While the PAL program was started to address the achievement gap in courses, it has bloomed into one that also enhances personal and professional skills for all that are involved.Built upon principles identified by other academic support programs and innovations of its own creation, PAL is an integral part of UMN’s overall academic support efforts.

Arendale, D. R. (2014). Understanding the Peer Assistance Learning model: Student study groups in challenging college courses. International Journal of Higher Education, 3(2), 1-12. doi:10.5430/ijhe.v3n2p  Retrieved from

<Click on this link to download the article>

Learning Assistance Often Ignores Impact of Culture on Learning of Students

Too often learning assistance and developmental education conferences and publications treat the issue of cultural and ethnic diversity as only an issue of demographics and not of pedagogy. Decades ago it was believed that sensitivity in this area was observing and honoring cultural events and including people of various cultures in class materials. This was a good start after that the previous focus only on dominant culture examples.The next step is required in learning assistance, teach multiculturally. WHile this has been widely adopted in education, the learning assistance community is far behind. Following is a good reader to illustrate practical ways to meaningfully engage students of different cultures in the classroom, honor their expertise, and make the classroom a richer and more productive environment for students of all cultures and backgrounds.

Higbee, J. L., Lundell, D. B., & Duranczyk, I. M. (Eds.) (2003). Multiculturalism in developmental education. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Developmental Education, General College, University of Minnesota. Retrieved July 4, 2004, from:

The first three chapters of this monograph provide models for integrating multiculturalism in developmental education. The remaining chapters focus on conversations related to multiculturalism in developmental education, reported by our colleagues in the General College of the University of Minnesota. The work of these authors reflects the General College's efforts to implement its multicultural mission. The following chapters are included in this monograph: The Centrality of Multiculturalism in Developmental Education (Karen L. Miksch, Patrick L. Bruch, Jeanne L. Higbee, Rashné R. Jehangir, and Dana Britt Lundell); Walking the Talk: Using Learning-Centered Strategies to Close Performance Gaps (Donna McKusick and Irving Pressley McPhail); Creating Access Through Universal Instructional Design (Karen S. Kalivoda); Multicultural Legacies for the 21st Century: A Conversation with James A. Banks (Patrick L. Bruch, Jeanne L. Higbee, and Dana Britt Lundell); Is there a Role for Academic Achievement Tests in Multicultural Developmental Education? (Thomas Brothen and Cathrine Wambach); The Triumphs and Tribulations of a Multicultural Concerns Committee (David L. Ghere); MultiCultural Development Center (MCDC): Sharing Diversity (Ghafar A. Lakanwal and Holly Choon Hyang Pettman); Summary Report on the Third National Meeting on Future Directions in Developmental Education: Grants, Research, Diversity, and Multiculturalism (Dana Britt Lundell); Report of the Future Directions Meeting Multicultural Themes Track (Jeanne L. Higbee and Holly Choon Hyang Pettman); and appendices.

Socially contructed learning spaces rather than instructional technology

I have been thinking about the terms "instructional technology" and "learning technology." They are often used interchangeably by many, includinig myself.  Doing so blurs their distinctions. I have implemented a number of Web 2.0 learning tools within my class: wiki web pages, podcasts, self-create music vidoes on a history topic, etc. Yesterday Brian Fredrickson and I facilitated a conference session on "Social media and learning spaces in schools, work sites, and communities." It was at MinneBar with over 1,000 in attendance. We had a great discussion and many within the audience shared how they use Web 2.0 for learning purposes.

Over the past couple of years, I now understand that my role is creating and facilitating "learning spaces" within the classroom so that students are active participants and co-creators of the class experience and learning outcomes. It is really not about which Web 2.0 technology tool or services that is used, it is the engagement and co-creation by students that makes the difference. It reminded me about the classic Barr and Tagg article from the mid 1990s that identified the shift from a teacher-dirven to a student collaborator learning environment within the classroom.

Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change Magazine, 27(6), 13-25. Retrieved July 4, 2004, from:

This is one of the most often cited articles on this topic and is credited by some as helping to influence higher education significantly since it was published in a journal that is frequently read by college presidents and chief academic and student affair officers. According to the authors, a paradigm shift is occurring in American higher education. Under the traditional, dominant "Instruction Paradigm," colleges are institutions that exist to provide instruction. Subtly but profoundly, however, a "Learning Paradigm" is taking hold, whereby colleges are institutions that exist to produce learning. This shift is both needed and wanted, and it changes everything. The writers provided a detailed matrix to compare the old instruction paradigm with the new learning paradigm in the following dimensions: mission and purposes; criteria for success; teaching/learning structures; learning theory; productivity/funding; and nature of roles.

Foundation for Best Practices in Postsecondary Education

Commonly accepted principles for improved learning of college students serve as guides for identifying best practices. Chickering and Gamson (1987) identify seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education: (a) encourage frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class, (b) facilitate cooperation among students since learning is a social process, (c) promote active learning through social interaction and engagement with the content material, (d) give prompt feedback to students to allow them to reflect and make changes in behavior, (e) increase time on task to increase higher outcomes, (f) communicate high expectations to prompt extra effort by learners, and (g) respect diverse talents and ways of learning.

Blimling  and Whitt (1999) extend several of these best practices outside of the classroom by identifying seven principles of good practice in student affairs: (a) engage in active learning, (b) develop coherent values and ethical standards, (c) set and communicates high learning expectations, (d) use systematic inquiry to improve performance, (e) use resources effectively to achieve institutional mission and goals, (f) forge educational partnerships among stakeholders, and (g) build supportive and inclusive communities.

  • Blimling, G. S., & Whitt, E. J. (1999). Good practice in student affairs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Higher Education. Retrieved from