Dear Michelle,

Your PLTL model sounds a lot like the widely adopted/adapted UMBC "accelerated learning program" that mainstreams developmental writing students by supporting students in a small 8-person extra meeting with the instructor. I have a few specific citations that might be helpful, but including ALP or accelerated learning program in your searches, you may find more. 

I'm not sure any of this will answer your administrations' questions at the level of specificity they seem to require. Is there any research suggesting that the 25 student recitation model is just as effective?

Eric Drown, Ph. D.
Developmental Writing Supervisor
Student Academic Success Center
The University of New England

11 Hills Beach Rd.

Biddeford, ME 04005
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From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Michele Doney <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 5, 2018 1:35 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Evidence that smaller groups are better than larger groups?

Hi all,


I’m getting bogged down in a literature search, and I’m hoping my trusty LRNASST-L colleagues will come to my rescue!


I am in need of evidence that students working in groups of about 8 facilitated by a peer leader do better than students working in groups of 25 with a peer leader.


Here’s the context:  My campus is eliminating a non-credit intermediate algebra class and replacing it with a credit-bearing course that combines intermediate and college algebra in a single semester.  The course has one additional class meeting per week, plus mandatory out-of-class support.  When asked to propose a support model, I chose PLTL, because it has a good track record for success in STEM, and because it was developed at CCNY, which means we know it will work with our students (commuter, mostly first generation, many ELL, extremely diverse), who are similar to CCNY’s students.  I also liked it because it calls for groups of about 8 students per leader, which makes it easier to use collaborative learning techniques and provide individualized attention when needed.  I also have data of my own from a previous study group pilot (not PLTL) that got good results with groups of about that size.


We’re getting some pushback about funding.  The administration believes we can get the same results with a weekly recitation for the whole class (sections are 25 students apiece), and they will not consider funding unless I can demonstrate the smaller groups will be more effective for learning.  Specifically, they are asking for a comparative study that demonstrates that groups of about 8 are more effective than groups of about 25.  Their question is very precise—evidence that simply shows that the PLTL model is effective is insufficient if all it does is compare classes with PLTL to classes without it.  It must be COMPARATIVE data regarding groups of approximately these two sizes.


I know it’s a longshot, but I thought I’d try.


Thanks!  Have a great week!



Michele Costabile Doney, M.S.Ed.

Director, Student Academic Consulting Center & Immersion Programs

Treasurer, Association for the Tutoring Profession

NCLCA Learning Center Leadership Certification Level Three

Baruch College, CUNY

55 Lexington Avenue, Box B2-116

New York, NY 10010

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