329 Generating Chemistry Majors and Graduates at UTEP Using “Plus Two” Peer-Led Team Learning

Thursday, November 5, 2009: 2:20 PM
Charolais (Camino Real Hotel)
James E. Becvar , Department of Chemistry, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX
In 2006 the Chemistry Peer Leader Program at the University of Texas at El Paso received the STAR Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for dramatically improving student success and retention in science and engineering disciplines.  Since its inception in fall 2000 the “Plus Two Workshop” curriculum innovation in first semester general chemistry has substituted two hours of Workshop: small-group, peer-led, team-based, active learning in chemistry guided by an undergraduate science, mathematics, and engineering student (Peer Leader) for one hour per week of large section lecture in the three-credit-hour first semester general chemistry course (annual enrollment over 900).  This successful strategy can be adapted for almost any large enrollment undergraduate “lecture” course to enhance learning for every student enrolled in course, not just a self-selected, highly motivated few.  Simple hands-on activities called Explorations allow Peer Leaders to demonstrate the real-world relevance of chemistry and allow students in course to hear, feel, smell, and see the concepts of chemistry in action.  Peer Leaders strengthen their understanding of chemistry, translate their learning experience and teamwork into other coursework, become responsible educators, enhance communication capabilities, and gain valuable leadership skills intimately related to their own career directions.   Many Peer Leaders have chosen to become science teachers as a direct result of their Peer Leadership experience.  Other factors may have contributed, but the time frame of Plus Two Peer-Led Workshop parallels the tripling of students majoring in chemistry at UTEP and the more than doubling of B.S. in Chemistry graduates.