Whether as study group leaders, undergraduate TA’s, or tutors, college students working in peer-led academic support programs have a unique role in the learning environment - acting as model students and sharing their productive study behaviors. Along the way, these students gather wisdom and insight into what works and what doesn’t when assisting their fellow undergrads. It’s often bittersweet to see these leaders graduate, and certainly frustrating to see their wisdom walk out the door.
The Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) Program at the University of Minnesota has compiled a storybook to capture, in an authentic way, some of that priceless wisdom so that those who follow can benefit from their predecessors' experiences - some positive, some challenging, but all "learning opportunities".
Two (or More) Heads are Better than One: Adventures in leading group learning is a collection of first person narratives of thoughtful reflections on these experiences, told by peer facilitators and recorded and edited by one of the PAL program’s recent undergraduates. What began as a senior's thesis project, the collection was finally published in August, 2010, and the PAL program has been using it in the pre-semester training workshops and subsequent weekly team meetings. The stories have become a springboard for discussions of program policies, the particulars of cooperative learning, and a clearer understanding of roles and boundaries.
Student comments include: "gives you a leg up before you even start", "helps you know what to expect”, “good to get real reactions”, and “great resource for activities”. The new facilitators are especially appreciative that there are so many stories (120) from so many contributors (19). The format – neither bulleted lists nor instructional summaries – is engaging; peer leaders find some of the stories “funny” and laugh along with the narrators about their experiences.
No matter the policies governing a particular program, Two (or More) Heads is a reality check – the students “tell it like it happened”. Anyone working with undergrads will see how they can benefit from these honest and thoughtful reflections, carefully grouped by topic, with stimulating, open-ended questions at the end of each chapter.
- View excerpt: includes Table of Contents, Foreword, Preface, Chapter One
- Request complete book
- Please note that the file is free, but some basic information is required.
- We want to know how widespread the interest is in our publication and we would like to be able to contact readers to gather feedback on its usefulness and recommendations for future revisions.
- Forwarding the file to someone else robs us of this valuable information, which we present to our administrators in the ongoing assessment of the PAL program.
- Thank you for your compliance and enjoy the stories.
- Feedback on book
book is a pdf file, 6,624KB, 168 pages (half sheet size)
If you plan to undertake a similar collection of your own students' experiences, you might find the following article helpful. The authors stress that knowledge-sharing stories can be a way to 1) share the norms and values of the organization; 2) build trust and commitment when processed in a supportive environment; and 3) socialize new members. After two years of integrating stories from the book into our pre-semester trainings, as well as in on-going training throughout the year, the PAL facilitators have demonstrated an increased willingness to share their own stories in ways that contribute to the capacity to act effectively in their roles.
- Storytelling in Organizations: The power and traps of using stories to share knowledge in organizations: Sole, Deborah; Wilson, Daniel Gray, LILA Harvard University; 2002.
A Message from the editor: View a 6 minute video from Lana Walker '10, editor of Two (or More) Heads. It freezes up for 10-15 seconds in a few places but the audio is intact. Lana offers her insights into the project should you be contemplating a similar undertaking.