PLTL was introduced in General Chemistry in 2001; since then, it has been expanded to Calculus and General Physics. The PLTL program at Washington University was designed to meet the following goals:
The PLTL Study Groups
Participation in PLTL at Washington University is optional, which makes our program distinct from PLTL programs at the colleges and universities where PLTL was first developed (see http://www.pltl.org).
The structure of PLTL at Washington University was designed to suit a large university setting in which 1) there are multiple sections of the "parent" course, and 2) graduate-student teaching assistants teach mandatory recitation sub-sections. This setting is different from that of the colleges and universities where PLTL programs were first developed, where the "parent" courses are smaller and there are no recitation sub-sections taught by graduate students.
Once Washington University students have elected to participate in PLTL, he or she must sign a contract agreeing to
PLTL study groups meet once a week throughout the semester. Two excused absences are allowed; if a student misses more than two sessions, he or she will be asked to leave the group. Students are informed that these requirements are intended to maintain consistent group membership and to foster effective group dynamics.
The PLTL Problems
The instructors of Calculus, General Chemistry, and General Physics design the weekly PLTL problem-sets. The course instructors also work closely with the Peer Leaders in weekly meetings of the Practical Applications of Academic Mentoring (PAM) course, during which the Peer Leaders solve the weekly PLTL problems in advance of their PLTL group meetings.
Students who choose not to join a PLTL study group can still solve PLTL problems, which are posted on the "parent" course Web page after the weekly PLTL sessions. The answers to the PLTL problems are not posted, but students may attend help sessions or office hours to work on the problems with instructors or TAs.
The Peer Leaders
Each spring, undergraduates who have successfully completed General Chemistry,General Physics, or Calculus are invited to apply to be a Peer Leader.
Selection criteria vary by department, but the process typically involves interviews with course instructors and current Peer Leaders.After a student has been selected as a Peer Leader, he or she enrolls for the Seminar in Academic Mentoring (SAM) and Practical Applications of Academic Mentoring (PAM). For more information about the selection, training, and supervision of the Leaders, see Peer Leaders.