Regina Frey (The Teaching Center and Chemistry)
Keith Sawyer (Education)
Patrick Brown (DuBray Middle School)
Sarah Luesse (Chemistry)
Mark Hogrebe (Education)
Daniel Gealy (The Teaching Center)
Purpose and Rationale
This project investigates the discourse, or conversation, among Peer Leaders and students in Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) groups in General Chemistry at Washington University.
The PLTL model has proven to be highly successful at Washington University and other institutions of higher education (See Implementation and Evaluation of PLTL). However, little attention has been paid to what happens during PLTL group meetings. A better understanding of exactly what takes place in successful PLTL meetings will contribute to improvements in Peer-Leader training and in the design of PLTL problems.
To identify the types of discourse used by Peer Leaders and by PLTL students during PLTL group meetings. For example, when students talk in PLTL groups, do they use conceptual explanations, closed questions, or open questions?
To investigate the relationship between the discourse used by Peer Leaders and patterns of student participation and interaction during PLTL group meetings
To investigate whether the nature of the PLTL problems influences the discourse that Peer Leaders and PLTL students use in the PLTL group meetings
To apply the results of the study to improve PLTL programs at Washington University and elsewhere, with particular attention to the selection and training of Peer Leaders, the design of the problems, and logistical issues such as optimal group size.
We videotaped and transcribed how conversations unfolded across two PLTL teams engaged in extended problem-solving sessions. The written transcripts were annotated with relevant gestures to include what students were doing when they were not talking. One of the sessions was led by a peer leader with a largely facilitative style, and the other by a peer leader with a roughly balanced use of facilitative and instructive styles.
A Peer leader’s interactional style (whether instructional or facilitative) influences student discussions. When a peer leader’s interactional style is almost entirely facilitative, student discourse is more conceptual in nature, and is characterized by longer chains of student-to-student conversations and more equal student participation. Conversely, when peer leaders use equal amounts of instructional and facilitative discourse, students demonstrate unequal participation and engage in mostly superficial, short chains of interactions.
This project was supported from 2007-2010 by a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Sawyer, K., Frey, R. & Brown, P. (2013) Knowledge building discourse in Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) groups in first-year General Chemistry. In D. D. Suthers, K. Lund, C. P. Rose, C. Teplovs, & N. Law (Eds.) Productive Multivocality in the Analysis of Group Interactions: Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Series (pp. 191-204). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-8960-3
Sawyer, K., Frey, R. & Brown, P. (2013) Peer-Led Team Learning in General Chemistry. In D. D. Suthers, K. Lund, C. P. Rose, C. Teplovs, & N. Law (Eds.) Productive Multivocality in the Analysis of Group Interactions: Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Series (pp. 183-189). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-8960-3
Brown, P. L., Sawyer, K., Hogrebe, M., and Frey, R. F. (2011, January). “Discourse in Peer-led Team Learning.” Poster presented at the 2011 CCLI PI Conference, Washington, DC.
Sawyer, R. K. (2010, June). Data presenter and participant. “Productive multivocality in the analysis of collaborative learning.” Preconference workshop at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Chicago, IL.
Brown, P. L., Frey, R. F., and Sawyer, R. K. (2010, June-July). “What are they talking about? Findings from an analysis of the discourse in peer-led team learning in General Chemistry.” Paper presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Chicago, IL.
Brown, P., Sawyer, R. K., & Frey R. (2009, Oct.). “Peer-led team learning in General Chemistry: Investigating the discourse of peer leaders and students.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Mid-western Educational Research Association Conference, St. Louis, MO.
Frey, R., Brown, P., & Sawyer, R. K. (2009, Sept). “An Analysis of discourse in peer-led team learning (PLTL).” Invited paper presented at the online Conferences on Chemistry (CONFCHEM).
Brown, P. Sawyer, R. K., & Frey R. (2009, April). “Investigating peer-leader discourse in peer-led team learning in General Chemistry.” Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.