Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS)

Essential Elements

Teaching and Learning in PASS

PASS (as it’s called in Australia) was first developed by Dr Deana Martin at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in 1973 under the name of Supplemental Instruction (SI). Since its inception in the 1970s, more than 1500 colleges and universities in more than 29 countries have adopted PASS/SI programs (Martin, 2008). The Australasian Centre for PASS in Australia is at the University of Wollongong, overseen by the PASS National Trainer, Sally Rogan.

There are ten essential elements that underpin all PASS Programs:

1. PASS Sessions Are Peer-Facilitated

The ideal PASS Leader is a student who has recently taken the class from the same instructor and received a high final subject grade. The PASS Leader neither re-lectures nor introduces new material. The responsibility for processing class material and answering questions generated by the students remains with the students.

2. The PASS Leader Serves as a Model Student

The PASS Leader functions as a “model student” of the discipline rather than an authority figure. PASS Leaders help students formulate and answer their own questions.

3. PASS Sessions Integrate Content and Learning Skills

PASS sessions integrate the review of lecture notes and textbook readings with appropriate modeling of learning strategies. “How to learn” is embedded into PASS sessions along with “what to learn.” Through the use of effective learning strategies, students can adopt and transfer these strategies to other subjects and content areas.

4. The PASS Leader Attends the Targeted Class Lectures

When the PASS Leader attends all lecture sessions, the PASS Leader is knowledgeable about what is occurring in the lectures and has an opportunity to model behaviour in the subject. The PASS Leader’s presence in the lecture/classroom also serves to market the PASS Program to students.

5. PASS Leaders Receive Training

All PASS Leaders receive training prior to the beginning of the semester and in-service training throughout the semester. These training sessions include specific teaching/learning theory and strategies for group facilitation.

6. The PASS Program Is Supervised

Trained professional staff supervise PASS Leaders and the PASS Program. Among other duties, the PASS coordinator and mentors periodically attend PASS sessions throughout the semester to provide feedback to PASS Leaders and inform ongoing program improvement.

7. Faculty Support the Program

The unit coordinator of the targeted unit should both understand the PASS Program and support its attachment to his or her class. Faculty members are encouraged to find ways to fully integrate PASS into the overall subject (but are able to choose their level of involvement with the PASS Program).

8. PASS Offers Regularly Scheduled Sessions

PASS is in place from the beginning of the academic semester. Generally, two or more sessions are offered each week depending on student demand.

9. Supervisors Conduct Ongoing Program Evaluation

The PASS program is evaluated each semester to: (1) continuously improve the overall quality of the Program by gathering information about its strengths and weaknesses and (2) to inform university staff about the overall impact of the Program.

10. PASS Targets Subjects Rather Than Students

The PASS Program targets units where a large portion of students will experience academic difficulty. PASS focuses on subjects rather than individual students. PASS is for all students no matter what their academic ability and background. PASS does not segregate students based on prior academic performance or predictions of academic success. PASS sessions work best with heterogeneous groupings of students.

Adapted from University of Missouri-Kansas City (2006)