Evaluation of a Pilot Project in PeerTutoring in Science & Math

Grant program: Dewey Fellowship Program

Grant recipient: Sarah Johnson, Department of Physics

Project Team: Kevin Lam, Department of Biological Sciences, Brenda Davison, Department of Mathematics, Sophie Lavieri, Lee Hanlan and Rebecca Goyan, Department of Chemistry, Samantha Aro (née Garcia), Student Success & Strategic Support, Azadeh Akhtari Zavareh and Stephan Struve, research assistants

Timeframe: November 2015 to May 2017

Funding: $14,000  

Courses addressed:

  • BISC 202 – Genetics
  • CHEM 110/111 – Introductory Chemistry
  • CHEM 121 – General Chemistry
  • MATH 150 – Calculus I with Review
  • MATH 154 – Calculus I for the Biological Sciences
  • MATH 157 – Calculus I for the Social Sciences
  • PHYS 100 – Introduction to Physics
  • PHYS 101 – Physics for the Life Sciences I
  • PHYS 102 – Physics for the Life Sciences II

Final report: View Sarah Johnson's final report (PDF)

Description: In Fall 2014 I began a Physics Peer Tutoring service as part of the SFU-wide Peer Education program as a response to my students’ need for additional academic support. Four volunteer peer tutors were recruited to provide tutoring via drop-in sessions four hours per week. Initially, the tutoring was aimed at students currently taking PHYS 100 Introduction to Physics and PHYS 101 Physics for the Life Sciences I, and was later expanded to include tutoring for PHYS 102 Physics for the Life Sciences II. This Peer Tutoring pilot project has been running successfully for more than a year. After several discussions with Faculty of Science colleagues and Peer Education staff we have decided to expand the pilot project to include tutoring for select Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics courses beginning in January 2016.

There is a great deal of evidence that peer tutoring at the secondary and post-secondary levels is beneficial to both the students being tutored and the tutors themselves. The aim of this project is to investigate whether we see the same types of benefits resulting from this new Science & Math Peer Tutoring project at SFU. This evaluation will provide insight into the effectiveness of this peer tutoring model, help us to make improvements, and provide evidence of its benefits to secure future program funding.

Questions addressed:

  • Is there a significant academic benefit to students from attending peer tutoring?
  • Is there a significant non-academic (social, attitudinal etc.) benefit to students and peer tutors from participating in the peer tutoring program?
  • Does participating in peer tutoring improve the peer tutors’ attitudes towards and confidence in their mastery of the subject matter they are tutoring? 
  • Do the peer tutors feel more a part of their departmental community as a result of their participation in the peer tutoring program?
  • Was the peer tutoring pilot program in Science & Math successful?
  • What can we do to improve the operation, delivery, format, etc. of the peer tutoring program?

Knowledge sharing:

Johnson, S. (2018, June). Teaching physics to future physicians. Presentation at the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) Congress, Halifax, NS.

Johnson, S., Struve, S., & Zavareh, A. (2017, May). Evaluation of a pilot project in science and math peer tutoring. Presentation at the 16th Annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Voices of Diversity and Inclusion: Vulnerabilities, Tensions, and Opportunities, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.

Johnson, S., Struve, S., & Zavareh, A. (2017, February). An investigation of peer tutoring in an IPLS course. Poster session presented at the Winter 2017 Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), Atlanta, GA.

Johnson, S., Struve, S., & Zavareh, A. (2016, July). Evaluation of a pilot project in peer tutoring in science & math. Poster session presented at Celebrating 10 years of Teaching and Learning Research at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

Keywords: peer tutoring