Peer assisted learning model to support students’ success in a complex science course

Kathryn Osborne, Maha Othman


The application of peer learning models, including Peer Assisted Learning (PAL), has been primarily in the clinical and simulation settings with the focus on readiness for clinical and professional practice. We present a single center experience with the design, structure and implementation of an in-house PAL tutorial in a Pathophysiology; a complex mandatory 12 weeks science course taken by 2nd-year students. This experience represents a phase and progression towards a more coherent model.  In phase I, a short survey was conducted to gauge the students’ interest and assess the feasibility of a tutorial model.  In Phase II and III, PAL tutorials were introduced and implemented over the course of two semesters for two cohorts of students. Phase I provided sufficient evidence to proceed with tutorial development, and provided guidance for tutorial planning and implementation. Phase II and III showed tutorial participation gradually increased over time. We have integrated complexity science as a theoretical basis that guided the study and unified the findings throughout the study. The tutorials helped students to integrate concepts from related courses, encouraged them to find similarities, and enhanced overall understanding of course content, while providing a support system to reduce anxiety and stress. The use of online material and a concept mapping approach received the most significant positive feedback as learning tools. We believe the PAL approach is important to tutorial development and, when implemented within the theoretical model of complexity science, may carry potential in developing nursing or other curricula. Further research into the application of tutorial models more broadly in nursing education curriculum is necessary to determine more coherently the unique design characteristics required.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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