Date of Award

Summer 7-1-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Wiles, Jason R.


active learning, biology education, online learning, Peer Led Team Learning, post-secondary education, STEM

Subject Categories

Education | Science and Mathematics Education


Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) is a well-studied active learning model that is associated with improved educational outcomes for students. The introductory biology course at Syracuse University (SU) has a well-established PLTL program, and published research stemming from this program has shown that PLTL has positive impacts on the short- and long-term retention of underrepresented minority (URM) students in STEM. However, there are additional data regarding potential benefits of the PLTL program for women and first-generation college students that have yet to be published. In this thesis, I present previously unpublished data indicating that women and first-generation college students who participated in PLTL were more likely to be retained in STEM majors than their counterparts who did not participate in PLTL, and that participating in PLTL is associated with diminished feelings of imposter syndrome, which were more common among participants who identified as women.Due to constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the introductory biology course and its associated PLTL program transitioned to an online format during the Fall 2020 semester. This provided an opportunity to explore the impacts of the newly developed and comparatively less understood variation of PLTL, cyber Peer Led Team Learning (cPLTL), among different groups of students. We found that participating in cPLTL was associated with improved academic achievement and retention and that this trend held true when looking specifically at women, first-generation college students, and URM students. Cumulatively, this work shows that both PLTL and cPLTL are associated with improved educational outcomes in terms of academic achievement and retention for underserved groups of students. There are several psychological benefits the program may provide to students that may be a mechanism by which PLTL improves educational outcomes, such as increased motivation, increased sense of belonging, or reduced feelings of imposter. Together, these findings support the use of PLTL and cPLTL as active learning strategies to improve the effectiveness and equity of STEM education.


Open Access



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