About PAL

Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) is a curricular structure that fosters cross-year support among students in science and math gateway courses. PAL encourages students to learn co-operatively under the guidance of trained students, called PAL Facilitators, who have been very successful in the same course they facilitate, and have been highly trained in group facilitation and pedagogy.

The content covered during PAL sessions was written by the primary faculty members teaching the main course, ensuring appropriate rigor and relevance.

2015 PAL Facilitators with Poster

Each PAL section is comprised of 10-15 students and 1 PAL Facilitator, and is directly connected to a primary STEM course (e.g. Chem 1A, Math 30, or Bio 22) that serves as a co-requisite. Each PAL meets for 2 hours/week and runs as an independent, 1-unit class that is graded credit/no credit, based on attendance and participation. During PAL class, students work in groups of 3-4 around a whiteboard or chalkboard, taking turns working through problems from the day’s worksheet. It is supported, focused practice of relevant problems. 

PAL is intended to help students:
▪ adjust to the rigorous expectations of science/math gateway courses
▪ acquire a clear view of course direction and expectations
▪ develop independent learning and study skills to meet the requirements of higher education
▪ enhance their understanding of the subject matter of their course through collaborative group discussion
▪ prepare better for assessed work and examinations

Student helping other students with work on whiteboard

Other “intangible” benefits of PAL include increased cohesion among students and their peers, increased academic and social confidence, and an enhanced sense of belonging within the university.

PAL is NOT:

  • teaching or tutoring by facilitators – PAL Facilitators do not directly answer questions, but instead help participants to construct their own understanding of the material, fostering long-term learning
  •  targeted at weak or problem students - all participants will benefit, and research indicates that PAL enrollment is reflective of all students in the main course
  • a means of reducing existing lecturer - student contact
  • an environment for social chatting