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September 18, 2008


Honored with Two Collaborators for Developing Peer-Led Team Learning Model

NEW YORK, September 18, 2008 – Dr. David K. Gosser Jr., Professor of Chemistry at The City College of New York (CCNY), was named a co-recipient of the 2008 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry.  The Award, given annually by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, recognizes Professor Gosser and two collaborators for developing the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) Workshop model for teaching chemistry.

Professor Gosser will share the award for the research and development of PLTL with Dr. Jack A. Kampmeier, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at The University of Rochester, and Dr. Pratihba Varma-Nelson, Professor of Chemistry and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Indiana University – Purdue University, Indianapolis.  The award will be presented November 13 at the Harvard Club in New York.

“It’s great to have this recognition for something I have been focused on for over 15 years,” Professor Gosser said.  “This is a unique program that was developed at CCNY and is now used at colleges and universities around the country.”

The PLTL project is a national partnership of faculty, learning specialists and peer leaders to help students build conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills in their science and math courses.  The model introduces a new structure, the peer-led workshop, where students solve chemistry problems and debate and discuss scientific ideas under the guidance of a peer leader (a student who has been successful in the course previously).

The peer leaders prepare for their leadership role by meeting with the faculty to discuss the upcoming workshop.  They also take a course in group leadership.  The program provides an active learning experience for the students, a leadership role for the undergraduate peer leader and a creative new dimension to faculty teaching.

The initial positive reports of significant increases in retention and performance of chemistry students by the original CCNY-led coalition have been replicated at many institutions and documented in research publications.  Currently, 1,500 - 2,000 peer leaders are engaged on more than 150 college and university campuses to facilitate workshops for more than 20,000 students per year.

Colleges in the CUNY system using PLTL besides CCNY include: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, New York City College of Technology and Queensboro Community College.  At CCNY, the program has resulted in a 51 percent improvement in the retention rate – students completing the class with a grade of A, B or C – for the freshman-level chemistry course, for which approximately 600 students register each year.

PLTL’s development was supported by a five-year, $2 million National Science Foundation grant through a program to promote systematic change in chemistry education.  Professors Gosser, Kampmeier and Varma-Nelson collaborated on the grant after a successful pilot project at CCNY in 1991.  The PLTL project has also received two National Dissemination grants from NSF.

Professor Gosser, who has taught at CCNY since 1986, attributes the program’s acceptance to its simplicity and flexibility.  “The program is robust and accessible,” he said.  “You don’t need to turn the world upside down to get this started.”

The program has six critical components that are described in a straightforward manner in the teacher support materials and peer leader training guidebook.  “Within this framework, there’s enough flexibility to allow teachers to put their own stamp on the program,” he added.

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  For additional information, visit www.ccny.cuny.edu.