University to bring peer-led group study program to dining hall

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

The Office of Residential Academic Initiatives and the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching will roll out a new academic initiative this weekend that will bring weekly peer study groups to the 1835 Hinman dining hall.

Peer-Led Undergraduate Study is a program that will allow students to meet on Sunday afternoons to study for introductory classes in chemistry, math, economics, psychology and statistics.

“The program is led by 13 student volunteer peer leaders who have done well in the courses before and received training from the Searle Center,” said Erica Maslanka, undergraduate academic programs coordinator.

Peer consultants from The Writing Place will also provide support at PLUS sessions.

“People will come in for help on problem sets or looking to review materials before a midterm or final exam,” said Brad Zakarin, director of Residential Academic Initiatives. “Leaders are going to be going around helping form small groups of people with similar problems.”

PLUS aims to offer students academic support in Northwestern’s residences.

“We’re really committed to lowering the bar to access to academic support,” Zakarin said. “We’re also trying to offer academic support in spaces that students don’t associate with remediation.”

“The program is meant to complement existing academic support for students, such as a professors’ or teaching assistants’ office hours,” Zakarin said.

He added that he hopes introducing the new program in a casual, familiar residential setting will encourage students to adopt “more constructive help-seeking behaviors down the road,” such as seeking help from faculty in academic buildings.

“Peer leaders were chosen by the Searle Center through faculty recommendations, open applications, grade data and other Searle Center programs,” Maslanka said.

The idea for PLUS came from the Searle Center’s formal Academic Mentoring Program, which features similar peer-led groups. AMP components are offered for certain gateway classes and students must register for the program through CAESAR.

“We realized there were some students that didn’t initially sign up for AMP but then realized throughout the quarter maybe that they could use that extra support,” Maslanka said. “That’s where PLUS came about. With PLUS we’re starting in the fourth week of every quarter.”

In a pilot version of PLUS in the spring, Maslanka said many students who signed up for AMP came back for PLUS to study for final exams.

“In the future, organizers hope to expand the PLUS program to more dining halls,” Zakarin said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jeannekuang