Teaching Matters

A Decade of PASS at UTAS

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Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


A Decade of PASS at UTAS


Jane Skalicky, Student Retention and Success
Jennifer Kemp-Smith, Student Retention and Success
Sally Fuglsang, Student Retention and Success


Making a Difference for Students

Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre




Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) – also known as Supplemental Instruction and Peer-Assisted Learning – is a student-led, student-focused approach to academic learning support that has a long tradition in higher education institutions in Australia and around the world. It is a non-remedial program that most commonly targets core first year units, those that may be particularly challenging and that experience high failure rates, or any unit where supplemental peer-led communities of learning are sought. PASS is designed to provide students with opportunities to better understand the unit content (what to learn) and to develop academic study skills (how to learn) relevant to the particular discipline. The intent is not to reteach unit material but rather to promote learning through collaboration and discussion between students.

UTAS has for many years offered a number of effective approaches to supporting students academically and socially as they begin their studies at the University, such as university preparation programs, orientation and mentoring programs, and social engagement programs. The PASS program, which is housed within Student Retention and Success in the Academic Division, complements these other approaches by providing discipline-specific academic peer support to students, particularly those undertaking what are most often considered to be challenging or core units. PASS was first piloted at the University of Tasmania in Semester 1, 2007, and supported 3 units from across the Faculties of Arts, Health and Law. The positive outcomes of the pilot program, together with an increase in interest in the program from both staff and students across the University, led to the development and implementation of what is now the nationally and internationally renowned UTAS PASS Model together with a strategic framework for the growth of PASS which has enabled PASS to grow to support units across all Faculties and Institutes.

Since its inception in 2007, the quality and effectiveness of PASS at UTAS has been evaluated at the end of each semester with respect to three main areas: student attendance and engagement with the program, student academic and learning experience outcomes, and unit retention rates. A consistent finding is that students who attend PASS are more likely to achieve higher marks for the PASS unit and are less likely to fail or withdraw from the unit compared to students who do not attend PASS. Analysis of the PASS program over the past 5 years further shows that retention rates are higher for students who attend PASS than for students who do not, and highest for students who consistently attend PASS throughout the semester. In addition, the program has been evaluated in terms of the leadership pathway and development opportunities that it provides for PASS Leaders and Mentors and also institutional factors such as sustainability, quality assurance and value for money. This presentation provides an overview of the first 10 years of the PASS program at UTAS, placing it first within a broader institutional context and then highlighting the growth of the program and its impact on students.

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