By students, for students: PASS
Written by Dr Chelsea Avard
Peer Assisted Study Sessions are free weekly study sessions, facilitated by students who have been highly successful in challenging courses, and who want to help new students in those courses work together to understand what the key concepts and ideas are, and how to approaching studying them. PASS Leaders are current students, and close to the material of the course having recently completed it themselves. They know what the most challenging aspects of the course were for them, and how they might be overcome.
Who is PASS for?
PASS is for everyone.
We’re here when you are determined to work your way from a Credit to a Distinction grade, or from a Pass to a credit, when you want to challenge yourself to attain a High Distinction, and when you are working hard for a Pass. At any time across your university career, you might find yourself in any one of those positions, and the likelihood is that this will change across different semesters, especially when it comes to courses that have shown themselves to be among the most challenging for students. Sessions are friendly, informal, semi-structured and peer-led, and there is no need to enrol or register. So, while some students attend every week, there’s nothing stopping you from coming to along to a session later in the semester when you are beginning to get into revision mode and/or wanting to consolidate your knowledge of courses as we head toward the end of semester. PASS is also a great way to meet more people from your course, and develop friendships and good study habits at the same time.
What can I expect?
A typical session will be attended by anywhere between 5 to 20 students. The PASS Leader will have prepared a few activities for the group, based on their own experience of the most important/difficult concepts in that week’s formal lessons. They’ll let the group know what those activities are, and ask what would be most helpful, or if in fact there is something else people in the session are having trouble with, or more interested in discussing or adapting the activities to suit. It’s really important to us that PASS is peer-led in all ways: the sessions are facilitated by student peers, the session is organised to encourage students to work together with peers to further everyone’s understanding of key concepts, but even more than this, the session itself is shaped around what attending students want to focus on each week. Students then work together through the session with the PASS Leader there to guide conversation, and provide tips and tricks they found helpful when studying the course.
There are still four more weeks of PASS to go! Come along after the mid-semester break to get prepared for end of year exams, and find out about SWOTVAC revision sessions.
How can I get involved in Leadership?
PASS Leaders are recruited from across all five faculties, and are a diverse group of people. While the main criteria for PASS leadership are a high GPA and a high level of success in the specific course they will lead PASS for, leaders are also selected for their high level ‘soft skills’, along with their interest in and talent for helping others learn. PASS Leader training develops these skills even further, and leaders provide ongoing support and mentorship for one another throughout their time with the program. PASS Leaders often tell us that the program has helped them develop their confidence and their leadership skills, and also that helping newer students work through key concepts works to consolidate their own knowledge of the foundations of their discipline/field.
Recruitment for PASS in 2020 is underway now! Come along to one of our information sessions in Week 10, find out how to apply for PASS Leadership and hear from current leaders about their experience with PASS.
How does PASS support Course Coordinators?
PASS is supplemental, and supports formal teaching.
Course Coordinators are key to the success of PASS support, with surveys year after year telling us that student attendance of sessions is heavily influenced by Course Coordinator promotion. Beyond all our promotional activities, beyond actions like embedding PASS details in MyUni for your course, adding a slide to your lecture powerpoint with room and time details of weekly sessions, allowing PASS Leaders to speak to your students for 2-3 minutes at the beginning of key lectures to introduce themselves and familiarise people with what PASS is about and what to expect, more than any of these things, mentioning PASS in lectures yourself is the best way to encourage students to attend. Doing so supports the idea of PASS as a legitimate and appropriate way to use their study time.
A key aspect of PASS is that Leaders are trained to facilitate not to teach, and so redirection (to textbooks, to MyUni and other course materials, to the knowledge and understanding of other students in the room), rather than instruction, is the core of our approach. PASS Leaders model what it is to approach study the way a successful student does, offering advice and demonstrating useful ways to approach learning.
In many cases, strong working relationships develop between PASS Leaders and Course Coordinators. In the beginning, this relationship relies on the Course Coordinator providing clarity for the PASS Leader as they prepare for the semester, by ensuring access to MyUni and so to the lecture and assessment materials, by loaning them necessary textbooks, and bringing them up to speed on any changes that might have been to the course since the PASS Leader was studying it. Beyond this, the best of these relationships can involve the course coordinator offering mentorship to the PASS Leader, and the PASS Leader providing helpful feedback to the course coordinator, which can support responsive ‘just-in-time’ teaching, and inform future iterations of the course.
Planning for PASS in 2020 is underway now! Check your course against PASS criteria and nominate for 2020. Course coordinators are also encouraged to recommend current students as potential PASS Leaders for next year.