Students enrolled in selected treatment sections will receive supplementary academic support and mentoring, by participating in learning collectives whose design and implementation draws from the literature on the types of outside-the-classroom factors that affect success in STEM, particularly for students from underrepresented groups. The collectives are inspired in part by Treisman’s seminal “anti-remedial” learning collaboratives in which African American students studying calculus at Berkeley in the late 1970s and early 1980s found success through participation in intensive small-group peer collaborative activities to develop strength in the discipline. Both of our campuses already have similar peer-instruction programs in place, but they are limited to one or two disciplines. These small-group peer collaborative activities have the potential to expand the reach of learning collectives to all STEM landing courses, and track their impact when connected to a specific course. We adopt the term “collectives” from Douglas and Seely Brown (2011), who describe peer-to-peer learning as an environment that produces results greater than the sum of its parts. In learning collectives, “people belong in order to learn” and the collective derives its strength from participation.
The impact of learning collectives on STEM success was examined in a recent analysis of UCLA’s PEERS (Program for Excellence in Education and Research in the Sciences), designed for first and second year science majors from underrepresented backgrounds. This study’s findings are in line with our predictions: students receiving peer guidance and support early in their academic trajectory performed better in “gate- keeper” courses, moved faster through the degree, and graduated with higher grade point averages than the matched comparison group.
Learning collectives will be peer-led. Half of the treatment sessions will be assigned to this activity, annually, and the learning collectives leaders will be split among the two campuses. The group of learning collectives leaders will grow from years 2 to 4, as more disciplines come online: 20 learning collectives leaders will work with Biology and Chemistry years 2-5; an additional 10 will work with Math years 3-5; an additional 10 with Environmental Science and Geology years 4-5; and an additional 20 with Computer Science and Physics in year 5. Peer leaders will receive training the summer before their work begins.