Evaluation of Queen's academic support pilot finds more positive effect on engagement than on grades

February 28, 2012

Evaluating a pilot program at Queen's University that pairs upper-year undergraduates who have completed a particular course with students currently enrolled, new research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario found that students who were female, of full-time status, Canadian-born, and in their first year of study were the most frequent participants of the Supported Learning Groups (SLG) sessions, believing that attending a session would help improve their grades and understanding of the course content, or keep up with course material. However, those students who could most benefit from the SLG sessions did not participate very often, or at all. The research found little evidence in many cases to suggest the sessions improved students' grades as the difference between participants' and non-participants' final marks were not statistically significant. Many students said the sessions did not have the desired effects on their academic performance. Still, the sessions showed positive effects on student engagement. On average, participants were more likely than non-participants to ask questions in class, draw on a range of concepts and ideas, discuss course concepts outside of the classroom, and include diverse perspectives in assignments and discussions. The researchers suggest that SLGs play an important supplementary role to traditional lectures, labs, and seminars, yet they cannot serve as stand-alone approaches to instruction. Research Summary | Full Report