Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) involves weekly review sessions for select historically challenging courses. PAL is for all students in the course who want to acquire effective learning strategies, develop an understanding of difficult course material, and improve their grades.
Attendance at sessions is voluntary - it’s a chance to get together with classmates to compare notes, discuss important concepts, develop study strategies, and test yourselves before your instructor does, so that you’ll be prepared. At each session you will be guided through this material by your PAL Facilitator, an experienced student who has already successfully completed the course.
How to Access PAL
Your PAL Facilitator will make regular announcements if your course is supported by PAL.
You can RSVP and check-in to your PAL sessions using the Penji app, our campus’s peer support scheduling app. Create your Penji profile using your Morris email and password on the Penji website or through the Penji app on a mobile phone.
Tips for making the most out of PAL sessions.
- PAL is one of the best ways to get to know the other students in your course in a fun, informal environment. PAL is intended to be a collaborate space. Keep in mind that everyone will come to the space with different experience and skills. When we work together, we all do better.
- While PAL sessions are open to all students in the class, you may wish to ask your PAL Facilitator questions in a one-on-one setting. We encourage you to utilize your PAL Facilitator’s open office hours, which you can access through the Penji app.
- PAL Facilitators are trained to act as facilitators – they are not professors and they are not second lecturers. They’ll ask you thought-provoking questions, guide you through concepts, share study strategies, and cheer you on.
- Come to your session prepared. Plan to bring your course syllabus, text, notes, and any additional material that may be used in the PAL session.
- Assessment of the PAL program at UMN Morris shows that students who attend PAL sessions earn a grade that is .7 higher on the grade point scale than students who do not attend PAL sessions. That’s nearly a full letter grade! Students who attend PAL early and often (more than 10 sessions per semester) tend to earn the highest grades in the course.
"PAL is a great program to have whether you are doing well in a class or not. It provides helpful tips and information on topics covered during class as well as interaction with one another to understand a topic."
"I'm so glad to have access to PAL! The PALs are always super nice and attending the sessions was great practice for the class!"
"I love this program. It is a great way for students to have that little extra time to really sit down and learn the material."
"The PAL program is great and I am very thankful that we have it at our campus. It employs active learning techniques backed up by research and it engages students with the material in a way that is not reached in lecture. I believe that to do well in a course you really need to engage with the material and PAL is a great way to enforce that, meet other students that are passionate about learning, and feel more connected and on top of your class."
Do you have a passion for learning? Are you interested in gaining communication skills and leadership experience while helping others learn? If so, consider applying to become a tutor or PAL Facilitator.
As a tutor or PAL Facilitator, you will:
- Further your knowledge in your discipline as you teach others.
- Receive training in active learning and facilitation strategies.
- Help your peers achieve long-term and short-term goals.
- Earn $10.50 per hour or, in lieu of wages, students may choose to serve as a tutor or PAL Facilitator for credit.
To apply for a tutor or PAL Facilitator position, please complete an application. If you have any questions, contact our Learning Assistance Coordinator:
Frequently Asked Questions by Faculty
Interested in becoming a PAL Facilitator?
How is it decided which courses will have PAL or tutoring
Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) and tutoring target courses that have been historically challenging, enroll large numbers of students, and are prerequisites for other courses in a major or discipline.
What do do if I'm working with a student who would benefit from attending PAL or tutoring?
If you are working with a student who would benefit from attending PAL or tutoring, there are a few things you can do.
- Personally encourage the student to attend PAL or tutoring through an email, in-person visit, and/or you may choose to direct them to learn more about tutoring and help them create an account in our Penji app.
- Consider submitting an Academic Alert through APlus.
- Reach out to the student's Academic Advisor or additional support person (listed in APLUS).
- If the student would benefit from study skills coaching, consider having them contact the Learning Assistance Coordinator to set up an academic skills consultation.
- If we do not currently have tutoring or PAL for the course in question, encourage the student to complete a Tutor Request Form. It is sometimes possible that we can modify the tutoring schedule or hire additional tutors if students request support.
How are PAL Facilitators hired?
Faculty recommendations play a major role in how PAL Facilitators and tutors are selected. Each semester, the Learning Assistance Coordinator determines the courses for which we’d like to hire a PAL Facilitator or tutor. Then, an email is sent to faculty asking for student recommendations.
We look for a variety of characteristics when hiring tutors or PAL Facilitators. For instance, we seek students who:
- Have taken the course at UMM and received a B+ or better
- Have demonstrated strong communication/leadership skills or a serious interest in enhancing their communication/leadership skills
- Are able and willing to tutor multiple courses and disciplines
- Are able to commit to working 3-10 hours per week
The Learning Assistance Coordinator follows up with each of the recommended students to gauge their interest in the role. In addition, students who were not initially recommended by a faculty member but who are interested in the roles may contact the Learning Assistance Coordinator to complete an application. They need a faculty member to complete a reference form for each discipline for which they’d like to tutor before being considered.
All interested students go through an interview process. The Learning Assistance Coordinator selects students for the roles based on experience with the subject/discipline, schedule compatibility, and communication/leadership potential.
How are PAL facilitators and tutors trained?
PAL Facilitators and tutors attend a three-hour training at the beginning of the semester where they discuss the key elements of a study session and the role of the tutor and PAL Facilitator. They also identify the benefits of collaborative learning techniques and practice active learning strategies. In addition, PAL Facilitators and tutors attend mandatory staff meetings throughout the semester, where additional training on various topics is provided.
What should I do if I'm working with a student who would make a great tutor or PAL facilitator?
If you're working with a student who would make a great tutor or PAL Facilitator, please let the Learning Assistance Coordinator know. We rely on your recommendations and referrals in the hiring process!
What can I expect from a PAL facilitator?
The PAL Facilitator will:
- Attend all class sessions, acting as a model student who takes notes, asks questions, participates in class discussions
- Maintain a professional attitude about matters such as class standards, grades, and student complaints
- Discourage students from attending PAL sessions as a substitute for class
- Share PAL materials with you, the cooperating faculty member, before use, if possible
- Provide feedback after each PAL session on what questions and doubts students expressed in the PAL session
The PAL Facilitator will not:
- Answer faculty addressed emails
- Grade assignments and exams
- Discourage students from attending class
- Teach the class in the instructor's absence
What can I expect from a tutor?
A tutor will:
- Establish a rapport with students conducive to positive professional interactions
- Respect differences in background, opinion, ability, motivation, and desires
- Support the student in establishing challenging, yet attainable goals within and beyond the tutor session
- Maintain confidentiality of records, grades, and other protected information
- Discourage students from attending tutoring as a substitute for class
- Not provide answers to anything that is graded, but instead ask questions that will allow the student to find the answers themselves.
What can I expect from the Learning Assistance Coordinator an the Student Success Center?
The Learning Assistance Coordinator and Student Success Center will:
- Hire PAL Facilitators and tutors only if they've been recommended by a faculty member in the discipline they are supporting. For PAL, it is strongly preferred if the PAL Facilitator is recommended by the cooperating faculty member whose course is being supported
- Train all PAL Facilitators and tutors before they begin
- Monitor the activities of PAL Facilitators and tutors and provide support as needed.
- Provide supplies and printing access to PAL Facilitators and tutors
- Provide faculty with an end-of-semester report on utilization of academic assistance programming