What is PAL?

  • Weekly study sessions throughout the academic semester for students in participating courses. The sessions are facilitated by undergraduate students who have taken the course, done well, and have completed the PAL training.
  • PAL program goals are to improve academic performance and increase persistence to graduation. 
  • PAL facilitators lead group learning sessions to engage students in discussions/activities that promote a deeper understanding of course concepts.

How does PAL work?

  • PAL facilitators use small group/pair work to encourage students to verbalize and expand on their thinking and to share it with the larger class.
  • During PAL, facilitators pose challenging questions to connect course concepts, encourage students to consult their notes or textbooks for clarification, redirect questions back to the group, model study skills, and provide opportunities for students to share study strategies, predict exam questions, and prepare answers to questions from lectures.
  • PAL is multi-sensory; students hear, see, say, and do the content of the course, which helps embed the course material in long-term memory.

Why participate in PAL sessions?

  • Participating in PAL is an opportunity to practice working through the material to gain understanding, all in a relaxed and supportive environment.
  • Research shows that students who attend PAL 10 or more times outperform those who do not attend or attend fewer PAL sessions.
  • Learning theory suggests that students who collaborate with their peers and take an active approach to their learning not only earn higher grades, but also have a stronger ground up understanding of course material (Arendale, 2005).

What are facilitators good at?

  • Creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere where it's safe to make mistakes
  • Planning sessions around specific learning objectives with a warm-up, main activity, and wrap-up 
  • Managing time for activities in the session 
  • Grouping: Use a combination of alone time and small group time - for students to figure out what they don't know 
  • Redirecting questions back to students in ways that are supportive but where students do the talking/thinking aloud
  • Building in time for students to explain their thinking to others
  • Weaving frequent review of concepts into the  session

More information about Peer-Learning - by Dr. David Arendale, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

SMART Hours & Locations

LocationMarker in an upside down teardrop shape Location: Room 204 | Map
PhoneAnalog phone receiver Phone: 612-624-1584
ClockA circle with lines representing a clock face Hours: The SMART room is available during library hours.
LocationMarker in an upside down teardrop shape Location: Basement | Map
PhoneAnalog phone receiver Phone: 612-626-8262
ClockA circle with lines representing a clock face Hours: The SMART room is available during library hours.
LocationMarker in an upside down teardrop shape Location: Room 75 | Map
PhoneAnalog phone receiver Phone: 612-624-2125
ClockA circle with lines representing a clock face Hours: The SMART room is available during library and extended study area hours.

Looking for group study space?

Rooms in SMART's Walter and Magrath locations can be reserved for two-hour blocks up to two weeks in advance.

Learn more!

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Media Questions: smartmedia@umn.edu
All Other Questions: smartlc@umn.edu


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