The Effectiveness of the Peer-assisted Study Sessions (PASS) Program in Enhancing Student Academic Success at Carleton Univ

Research Summary:​

Report prepared by Dr. Carol A. Miles, Dragana Polovina-Vukovic, Darcy Litteljohn, Dr. Anthony Marini, Carleton University 

Carleton University introduced the Peer-Assiste​d Study Session (PASS) program to assist students who are registered in traditionally difficult or high attrition courses, with combined D, Fail or Withdrawal (WFD)  rates  of  over  30  per  cent,  to  succeed  in  their courses.  The PASS program was first piloted at Carleton University in 2000, when support was provided through the Centre for Initiatives in Education (CIE) for one first-year psychology course. Currently administered by the Student Academic Success Centre (SASC), Carleton’s PASS program has expanded greatly, with PASS support being provided for over 50 courses in a number of different faculties. The study sessions are offered and led by student facilitators who have already successfully completed the same course and receive additional training. The sessions offer students an opportunity to come together in an informal environment, where they are encouraged to compare class notes, discuss course concepts, develop strategies for studying and learning the course material, and predict test items.

The assessment that was completed employed  administrative data from the 2006/07 and 2007/08 academic years, along with student, facilitator and faculty surveys and focus groups, to:

  • determine whether PASS significantly improved student academic success and corroborate these findings with student impressions of the PASS program;
  • evaluate the influence of the PASS program on quantitative measures of  facilitators’ academic and career development; and,
  • examine faculty reaction to, and acceptance of, the PASS program as currently implemented. The researchers found that PASS significantly improved academic success among those students who took advantage of the opportunity.  Students who  attended PASS achieved higher final grades, on average, than students who did not attend, and  the DFW rates were significantly lower among PASS participants than non-PASS participants.

About the Authors

Dr. Carol A. Miles is the Director of Learning Technologies and Teaching Support at Carleton University. She has led a variety of research projects on teaching and learning in higher education, as well as student academic success and faculty evaluation. Recently, as the principal investigator, Dr. Miles has conducted two projects: “Statistic Anxiety Assessment Tool Evaluation” and “A National Needs Analysis and Recommendations for Targeted Programming for Mid-Career Faculty”. 

Dragana Polovina-Vukovic, M.A.  is a Technology and Research Analyst at the Educational Development Centre at Carleton University, where she works with faculty members on enhancing learning and teaching through the effective use of instructional technology. Darcy Litteljohn is a doctoral candidate in Psychology at Carleton University’s Institute of Neuroscience. He was formerly an instructor in Psychology at Carleton University (Department of Psychology), where he taught courses in Introductory Psychology and Abnormal Psychology. He is the recipient of several prestigious research scholarships, and has disseminated the outcomes of his research through scholarly journals and international conference proceedings.

Dr. Anthony Marini is a Senior Teaching Development Associate in the Educational Development Centre at Carleton University. Dr. Marini was formerly Associate Professor of Education at the University of Calgary and was selected as a 3M national Teaching Fellow in 1997. He has had a longstanding interest in creating programs to enhance the learning experience of undergraduate students. His most recent project involved a national survey examining the need for establishing Mentorship programs for new faculty members as a way of supporting sound career paths and helping to ensure new faculty retention.​​