Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Effectiveness and Student Demographics of Peer-Led Study Groups in Undergraduate Animal Science Courses

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Effectiveness and Student Demographics of Peer-Led Study Groups in Undergraduate Animal Science Courses

Article excerpt

Abstract

Peer-led group tutoring has been identified as a best practice approach to increase retention and graduation for undergraduate college students. This study examined the efficacy, student demographics and participation rates, of peer-led undergraduate animal science study groups. Of the 718 students enrolled, 49.6% participated in at least one study session. Participating students attended an average of 4.0 + 3.6 sessions per class. There was no statistical difference in participation between: males vs. females; first generation vs. non- first generation college students; low income vs. moderate and above income; and students with documented disabilities vs. students without disabilities. A positive correlation existed between study group attendance and course grade (r = 0.24, p < 0.001), cumulative grade point average (GPA) (r = 0.22, p < 0.001), and graduation (r = 0.12, p < 0.01). Additionally, a strong correlation emerged between prior academic performance (GPA) and course grade (r = 0.73, p < 0.001), and graduation (r = 0.44, p < 0.001). The study also found a weak positive correlation between tutor and course grade (p < 0.01). Regression analysis of study sessions and course grade indicated that for each study group attended there was a +0.08 change, on average, in course grade.

Introduction

The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (Ohio State ATI) is an open enrollment institution where students pursue associate of applied science (AAS) degrees or associate of science (AS) degrees. The institute is organized within the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences at the Ohio State University, whose main campus is located 90 miles south of Ohio State ATI's rural Wooster campus. Each student must successfully complete carefully sequenced technical and general courses as prerequisites for upper level courses which are required for degree completion. Students earning AAS degrees are expected to apply learning from their coursework to required internships. Students earning AS degrees must gain a strong academic foundation before they transfer directly into baccalaureate programs at the main campus.

Students enrolled in animal science curricula at Ohio State ATI must successfully complete specialized technical courses that combine rigorous science coursework in traditional classroom settings with "hands on" learning at Ohio State ATI's 1,700-acre farm laboratory. The combined curricula are designed to help students learn how to transfer scientific concepts into practice in the animal science field. However, many animal science students at Ohio State ATI struggle with the heavy science core of their courses. Most entering students at Ohio State ATI are traditional college freshmen. Student orientation program responses indicate that approximately sixty-five percent are first generation college students, and many did not plan to attend college or take college preparatory courses in high school, leaving them ill-prepared for college-level coursework. Records from ATI's Office of Disability Services indicate that students with disabilities make up ten percent of the institute's enrollment, much higher than the national average. Many students with disabilities are attracted to the "hands on" learning at Ohio State ATI but wrestle with learning in a structured college environment.

To address students' difficulty in historically challenging animal science courses, Ohio State ATI, through a U.S. Department of Education Title 4 TRIO grant, provides formally structured study groups. The study groups are led by peer leaders who coordinate the group's activities with the classroom faculty. Group peer tutoring is considered a best practice for retaining first generation, low income college students (U.S. Dept. of Education, 1997). Ohio State ATI's study groups resemble peer-led team learning, a model program first developed at the City College of New York (Woodward et al. …

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