PLUS Faculty

Frequently Asked Questions for PLUS, For Faculty

What are PLUS Sessions?
PLUS stands for “Peer Led Unit Study.” PLUS sessions are held twice per week for two hours. They are problem-solving sessions specific to your course, on key topics in your course, led by a student who successfully completed your course. The faculty member provides problem-solving activities for the PLUS leader to give to participants in the session. The PLUS leader then facilitates problem solving and assists students in their understanding of the key concepts presented. The PLUS leader should not use the time to provide lengthy lectures on the topics. Rather, the role of the leader is to support participants as they complete the assigned problems offering assistance and clarification if participants experience difficulties along the way.

How do I get started offering PLUS in my course?
This is a summary; all topics have more information below:
Check with the PLUS coordinator to let him/her know of your interest in offering PLUS sessions.
Choose a PLUS leader (former student), confirm his/her commitment, and inform PLUS coordinator of your.
Work with the PLUS leader to find a mutually compatible schedule for the PLUS sessions.
Provide PLUS coordinator with a list of possible PLUS session times.
Once times are confirmed, inform your students and encourage them to attend weekly.
Steps 1-3 must be performed BEFORE the semester starts. Steps 4-5 must be completed before the end of the first week of class.

How should I choose a PLUS leader?
A PLUS leader should be a former student who was successful in the class, and who also has good interpersonal skills and good potential for working with students in problem-solving sessions. The student should have a good aptitude for the material, but it is not necessary that he/she was one of your top students. It is also essential that this person has time to conduct the sessions at a time that works for your students, can attend a weekly mentor meeting, and has time to meet with you on a weekly basis to discuss the week’s PLUS sessions (all of which is compensated). Preferably, your PLUS leader should be a current KCC student. However, if you have a former student who is in a STEM major at UH Manoa, he/she may be eligible.

Does my course qualify for PLUS Sessions?
Gateway courses required for the ASNS degree qualify for the PLUS sessions, particularly those that are composed mostly of ASNS students. Other key ASNS courses may also qualify. This limitation is due to the fact that the PLUS sessions are completely funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants and these grants typically focus on completion of the ASNS degree. List of supported courses so far are:
BIOL 171, 172
CHEM 161, 162, 272
EE 211
MATH 135, 140, 205, 206, 231, 232
PHYS 170, 272

What is the role of the course instructor who chooses to include PLUS in his/her course?
The instructor of the course has a critical role in the success of the PLUS sessions. Here is what the instructor needs to do to make the PLUS program a success in his/her course:
Choose an appropriate PLUS leader.
Work with the PLUS leader, your class, and the PLUS coordinator to schedule PLUS sessions.
Meet weekly with the PLUS leader to provide him/her with problems for the PLUS leader to present and to review the material/answer questions as needed.
Provide encouragement and incentives for your students to attend PLUS sessions on a weekly(You will be informed of which students attended each PLUS session.) The goal is to have at least 50% of the students in each section attend PLUS sessions. Having much less than that is not sustainable and cannot be supported financially. It is therefore essential for faculty to find incentives for students to assist these sessions.
Attend a few PLUS sessions during the semester, especially at the beginning of the semester to offer guidance to the PLUS.
Report grade data to PLUS coordinator at the end of the semester, if
This all requires a considerable time commitment on the part of the faculty member, especially in the first semester while developing the problem-solving activities.

What is the role of the PLUS leader?
The PLUS leader also has a key role in making PLUS a success in your course. He/she needs to:
Work with the instructor to come up with possible times for the PLUS sessions.
Meet weekly with the instructor to discuss the new problem-solving activities for the week.
Review the material in advance of the session, so that the session runs smoothly.
Conduct the session in a way that facilitates problem solving amongst the students, collaborative learning, and understanding of the key concepts of the course.
Make sure that all participants sign-in with their UHID when entering the session for the purposes of attendance-tracking and evaluation.
Administer a very short survey to each participant at the end of each session for the purposes of attendance-tracking and evaluation.
Attend an orientation at the beginning of the semester and then weekly meetings with the STEM outreach coordinator for all PLUS leaders and Peer Mentors.
A formal mentor training will be offered through the College. Dates will be announced at the beginning of the semester. PLUS leaders are required to participate to this training. For returning PLUS leader, attendance to the mentor training is not required a second time.

What is the role of the PLUS coordinator?
The PLUS coordinator serves mainly an administrative role in making sure that the PLUS program runs smoothly, collecting attendance and evaluation data, and reporting the results of PLUS to the grant-funders. The PLUS coordinator:
Helps faculty and PLUS leaders get started in offering PLUS sessions by offering information and assistance.
Creates a master schedule for PLUS based on the preferred times of the course instructors and PLUS leaders, taking into account the room availability (typically Leahi Library).
Works with faculty to find alternatives should the preferred time slot be taken.
Collects the weekly attendance and evaluation sheets administered by PLUS leaders each session and compiles the data.
Provides the instructors with an attendance and evaluation report at the end of the semester.
Aggregates PLUS attendance, course grade, and (at times) GPA data to evaluate the effectiveness of the PLUS program and reports these results to the NSF.
Please note: the PLUS coordinators do not work directly with PLUS leaders to come up with a schedule for PLUS sessions. PLUS leaders and course instructors need to figure out their possible session times and then provide it to the coordinator so that a master schedule can be made. Please keep in mind that the PLUS coordinator is sincere in trying his/her best to accommodate everyone and ensure smooth running of the PLUS program. However, due to the lack of space availability on our campus, there is no guarantee that everybody’s first choice of schedules can be accommodated.

What are the steps to getting my PLUS session scheduled?
Here is a good approach to figuring out a schedule for your PLUS sessions:
The course instructor should collect possible times from the PLUSMake sure these times do not conflict with the class times!
The PLUS leader needs to hold two-hour sessions, twice per week (4 hours total in sessions).
Poll your students with the various options, and see which times would work out best forEven if your course has not started, you can use the email list on myuh to send out a message in advance of the semester. It is strongly suggested that this step is performed prior to the beginning of the semester.
Once you have come up with a prioritized list of session times, email the PLUSScheduling the PLUS room (Leahi Library) is first-come-first-served, so it is a good idea to get your scheduling efforts started early.
Ideally, the coordinators will have a real-time schedule online for you to see the availability of the LeahiYou may want to check this out to see if there is space when you want to hold your sessions.
If one or both of your ideal session times are already taken (the room is booked), the PLUS coordinator will help you come up with alternative times.

What should I do if there isn’t space for my PLUS session at the time I would like it to be held?
The best thing to do is to find some alternative times with your PLUS leader when the Leahi Library is available. If that isn’t possible, you may consider holding the PLUS sessions in a different room. This is not ideal. You will want to make sure that the room has a white board (and markers) to facilitate problem solving by the PLUS leader. A meeting-room style room works best for collaborative work, rather than a classroom. In the past, PLUS sessions held in alternate rooms had facility conflicts, such as administration needing the room for a meeting on occasion. So, please be aware of this possibility if you decide to schedule your PLUS session in a non-Leahi space. The PLUS coordinator will do her/his best to support your needs and help you schedule the non-Leahi room through the Math and Sciences department chair and the facilities coordinator.

When do the PLUS sessions start and end?
PLUS sessions run from the second week of classes until the second-to-last week of classes, for a total of 14 weeks. PLUS sessions do NOT run during the last week of class. Also, there are no PLUS sessions held during Thanksgiving break and Spring Break. If a holiday falls on the day of a PLUS session, it is automatically canceled and the PLUS leader is not required to make up the lost time.

How are PLUS leaders compensated?
PLUS leaders provide two-hour sessions twice per week. In addition to the 4 hours of PLUS sessions, PLUS leaders will be paid for 4 hours of prep time. For example, the PLUS leader should meet weekly with the course instructor for at least one hour to discuss what should happen at each PLUS session. In addition, the PLUS leader should prep on his/her own for approximately 3 more hours (practicing the problems provided by the instructor). PLUS leaders will also be paid for attending the weekly mentor/PLUS leader meetings. Assuming attendance at the meetings, the PLUS leader will be paid approximately $1300 for the semester (which works out to approximately $10/hour).

What are the benefits of PLUS sessions?
The PLUS sessions are modeled after a nationally recognized initiative called “Peer-Led-Team-Learning.” The results of PLUS at KAPCC have been very positive and significant. In general, the students who attend PLUS sessions perform better in the course and have lower withdrawal rates. In addition, the number of PLUS sessions attended correlates with course performance. While many “A” students attend PLUS sessions, approximately half of the attendees are B, C, D, and F students. So PLUS does not exclusively serve the high-performing students.
The PLUS leaders also benefit from providing PLUS sessions. PLUS leaders unanimously agreed that providing PLUS sessions helped them to deepen their understanding of key concepts. They also felt an increased confidence in their ability to be successful at the 4-year college level.

Assessment of PLUS sessions
Since the fall of 2010, the PLUS strategy has been implemented in 25 sections of STEM courses, including, Biology, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Physics. 242 out of 913 students (27%) enrolled in these courses have been impacted by PLUS.
Figure 1 shows the grade distribution of PLUS attenders vs. those who don’t attend PLUS. PLUS attendance correlated with higher grades. Students were most likely to withdraw from impacted courses if they did not attend PLUS sessions (17% compared to 7%), which suggests that the PLUS strategy may be an effective treatment to keep students from withdrawing.

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Figure 1

As seen in Figure 2 below, 69% of students who attended PLUS sessions passed their course vs. a 50% pass rate for students who did not attend PLUS sessions.

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 Figure 2

Figure 3 shows the GPA distribution of students who attended PLUS sessions vs. those who did not attend PLUS sessions. It is important to note that PLUS serves not only the strongest students, but also students with a lower GPA. The students in the lowest GPA range (below 2) did not attend the PLUS sessions.

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 Figure 3

Figures 4 and 5 show that the frequency of attending PLUS sessions correlated positively with the grade earned in the class. Students who attended PLUS sessions 8 times per semester had a higher passing rate than students who only attend 4 times per semester.

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 Figure 4

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 Figure 5