Utilizing peer learning assistants to improve student outcomes in an introductory ece course

David John Orser, Kyle Dukart, Changhyun Choi, Frances Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This evidence-based practice paper reports on the implementation of Peer Learning Assistants (PLAs) in an introductory Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) course. The course Introduction to Microcontrollers was identified as having a peak 20% no-pass rate, the highest of any ECE course in the first or second year. As a sophomore-level course and generally the first-course students take after declaring as an ECE major, it was considered a priority to improve student pass-rate, interest, understanding, and reputation of this course. To meet these needs, PLAs were added to the course for three semesters and the results were evaluated using a combination of standardized surveys, custom surveys, and analysis of grade data. Initial indications are positive but not yet statistically significant. The program has resulted in an increase in course ratings by students (5.21 to 5.36 with p<0.12), a small decrease in no-pass rates (15.8 to 14.3% p=0.25), positive perception surveys returned 76% very positive responses, and improved perception of learning for inexperienced programmers (p=0.01). In addition, there appear to be intangible benefits to PAs, TAs, Professors, and the department. These include confidence and communication skills for the PLAs and reduced variability in the course over time. Finally, it is shown that students rate TAs and PLAs as equivalently effective at helping them learn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1524
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education 2020.


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