By Evan Silvera
For The Diamondback
A University of Maryland program aimed at training undergraduates to boost the learning outcomes of their peers has more than doubled in size since its pilot semester.
In fall 2016, 50 students were involved in the Academic Peer Mentoring Program. Now, there are 120 participating students, said Scott Roberts, director of instructional excellence and innovation for the campus’ Teaching and Learning Transformation Center.
Roberts said before he and his colleagues created the program, some faculty members lacked a clear way to engage students in the classroom.
“Where we saw a need and an opportunity was to offer the campus community a mechanism for training undergraduates on some of the core principles of education and peer mentoring,” said Roberts, who developed the program alongside the center’s Ben Bederson and Alexis Williams.
To join the program, students must take TLTC333: Fundamentals of Academic Peer Mentoring, a one-credit course designed to help them develop skills that support active learning. Students must complete the course prior to or during the semester they are working with faculty to support a course.
“One of the most important lessons that AMPs learn very early on in the TLTC333 course is about the science of learning, and what actually helps students to learn effectively,” Roberts said.
Academic peer mentors are utilized in the classroom in a variety of ways, including helping students in large lectures and facilitating discussions in smaller groups, said Roberts.
“I definitely can see that the AMPs were developing skills in nurturing learning, but not making it too easy or unnecessarily difficult for the students,” Roberts said.
Sophomore government and politics major Noa Dar, one of six peer mentors in Roberts’ psychology class, said she saw how hard PSYC100: Introduction to Psychology was for many students.
“I wanted to be able to help with the pressure of adjusting to a new campus in addition to a difficult class,” Dar said.
Freshman Nicole Epstein, who is a former student in Robert’s PSYC100 class, said having peer mentors in the classroom enhanced her learning experience.
“The AMPs are very easy to talk to because they are students like myself, unlike my TA or professor,” said the communication major. “Having them as a resource made asking questions easier and conversations more comfortable.”
Roberts said 98 percent of his PSYC100 students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that having AMPs in class meetings has been helpful to learning.
“Word is getting out that there are options for faculty to support active learning in the classroom,” Roberts said. “AMPs are hands-on learning activists. We want them to provide general mentorship as well as academic support, and not just be in the class, but involved in it.”