Frequently Asked Questions for FacultyASLA programs are designed to complement a student’s course experience. We focus both on how students learn (Do they study effectively? Are they learning material deeply?) and how students feel as they learn (Do they have confidence in and optimism about their abilities? Do they feel a sense of belonging in the academic arena?).
The FAQ below provides detail on our programming and how we engage with faculty.
What is ASLA?
How can ASLA support my students?
ASLA offers two broad categories of support:
- Course-linked support. For support with specific courses, ASLA offers Peer-Guided Study Groups, Drop-In Peer Tutoring, and Midquarter Mentored Study Groups.
- Academic coaching. To support students with more general learning strategies, we also offer group and one-to-one academic coaching, workshops on a variety of academic-success topics, and staff consultations to help with addressing academic challenges.
ASLA’s programs feature peer support, modeling of good study habits, and comfortable, low-risk environments, all of which can be especially important for students experiencing struggle in their courses.
What resources does ASLA have that I can use in my courses?
If you are looking to support your students in their adjustment to the academic landscape at Northwestern, or in their development as learners, you may be interested in
- Short student-to-student videos on succeeding academically at Northwestern, with accompanying handouts
- Making the adjustment from high school to college
- Asking for and finding help
- Study strategies
- Mindsets for learning
- Web resources on learning strategies — from how to use a textbook effectively to making the most of office hours to making the best use of feedback
- Advice on setting up and running an informal study group
- Advice on creating inclusive peer-to-peer learning environments
Who leads the tutoring and study-group sessions?
Our tutoring and study-group programs are all peer-led. The peer leaders are fellow undergraduates who have already taken the course and have done well, and who have strong interpersonal skills and demonstrate empathy. Peer leaders are trained via a 2-quarter, credit-bearing course and coaching from ASLA staff.
What happens in the study-group and tutoring sessions?
ASLA peer leaders take a facilitation approach – meaning that the student, not the leader, is the most active person in the room. Leaders are trained to guide students through arriving at solutions, rather than “telling” them the solutions. When leaders encounter content that is beyond their knowledge, they work with the student to find the needed information, or help the student figure out how to get additional help. In terms of the actual activity students engage in, the particular model differs by program:
- In Drop-In Peer Tutoring, tutors for several different courses are available in a room (a residence hall space or the Multicultural Center), and students can come and go as they like. Students bring questions, or are welcome to simply come and study.
- In Peer-Guided Study Groups, students register on CAESAR at the start of the quarter, and meet with the same small group each week of the quarter. Sessions are semi-structured and include review of key concepts, problem-solving practice, and collaborative response to student questions.
- Midquarter Mentored Study Groups are structured in a similar way to Peer-Guided Study Groups, but with additional tailoring to students’ questions and with guidance around study strategies.
In all programs, we encourage student participants to come to each of their program sessions prepared, having made the most out of class time, readings, and other assignments, and to take advantage of faculty and TA office hours and other supports offered through the departments.
What does ASLA need from faculty members who are teaching a course with study groups or tutoring?
Do ASLA's programs make an impact?
We have regularly collected and analyzed both course grade data and survey data on extra-academic variables, such as approach to studying, sense of belongingness, self-efficacy (course confidence), and the like. While we have not conducted randomized, controlled studies to measure impact of our programs, we often use statistical approaches to "even out" pre-existing differences between students who participate and do not participate in ASLA programming. You can read our published evaluation studies to see some of this evaluation work in detail.
On the whole, our findings suggest that students who participate in our sustained peer learning programs have an edge over nonparticipants in terms of course grade, and make gains in course confidence, study approaches, and other nonacademic areas – above and beyond gains made by similar students who do not participate.
We also collect data on ASLA programming which aims to support students' more holistically, by guiding them around aspects of academic work that are not specific to a particular course. This set of data suggests that students who participate are more likely to improve their GPAs than are students who do not participate.
Finally, we collect data on students' subjective experience and perceived impact of the programs, through end-of-term surveys and focus groups. We use this information to continuously improve all of our offerings.
Can I include something in my syllabus about ASLA?
Of course! We suggest the following:
If you are looking for help with a course or academic challenge, or if you would simply like to sharpen your study strategies and stay on track, check out Academic Support & Learning Advancement. They offer drop-in tutoring, study groups, academic coaching, and individual consultations for all undergraduates. For more information: northwestern.edu/asla or firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I encourage my students to form their own informal study groups?
Can ASLA help me think about encouraging my students to take effective study approaches?
We are glad to consult with instructors who are interested in promoting effective learning strategies among their students. Contact us to set up a conversation.