This long-term project examined how participating in a peer-led, small-group workshop program impacted students in the STEM disciplines. We have collected data for more than 10 years in the study site, Northwestern University's Gateway Science Workshop, and have used a variety of methods to examine a range of questions.
The project addressed the following questions:
- Does participation in a peer-led small-group workshop program lead to improved retention in science and mathematics course sequences?
- Does participation in a peer-led small-group workshop program lead to improved performance in science and mathematics classes?
- Does participation in such a program have different effects for students from underrepresented groups?
Program participants are more likely to complete the course sequence than non-participants. In biology, for example, minority participants are approximately three times more likely, and majority students 1.5 more likely, to complete the three-quarter-course sequence than their non-participant counterparts.
Participants often earn higher course grades than non-participants. After controlling for any differences in SAT-Math and prior grade point average (GPA), final grades average 0.5 grade points higher for minority students and 0.2 points higher for majority students.
The project was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and includes study of the Extended Science Workshop program, funded by the NSF Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant.
Drane, D. (2002). Joining the PLTL community. The workshop project newsletter progressions: Peer-Led Team Learning, 3, 3–4.
Drane, D., Smith, H.D., Light, G., & Pinto, L. (2005). The Gateway Science Workshop Program: Enhancing student performance and retention in the sciences through peer-facilitated discussion. Journal of Science Education and Technology,14, 3, 227-352. See publisher’s website.
Light, G., & Micari, M. (2013). Making Scientists. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Micari, M., & Drane, D. (2007). Promoting success: Possible factors behind achievement of underrepresented students in a peer-led small-group STEM workshop program. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering,13(3), 279–293. See publisher’s website.
Munkeby, A., Drane D., & Light G. (2005). Supporting innovative freshman study: The engineering workshop program at Northwestern University. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education, Portland, OR.
Pazos, P., Drane, D., Light, G., & Munkeby, A. (2007). A peer-led team learning program for freshmen engineering students: Impact on retention. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education, Honolulu.
Swarat, S., Drane D., Smith H.D., Light G., Pinto L. (2004). Opening the gateway: Increasing student retention in introductory science courses. Journal of College Science Teaching, 34(1) 18–23. See publication.
This project is part of more than 10 years of research on the Gateway Science Workshop program at Northwestern.