One of the most exciting recent changes to Biochem 301 has been the addition of a program of optional small discussion groups, which are led by undergraduates who previously took the course. The first such experiment was last summer (Summer Term 2020), prompted in part by the urgent need to have some kind of discussion opportunity and some means of forming student community in the face of remote learning—and prompted also by strong and repeated encouragement from a former student who thought that it would be a wonderful addition to the course, both for those taking the class and for those who would lead the groups. The summer version worked well, prompting a continuation into the fall (Fall 2020).
As we now look to Spring 2021, I am most pleased to announce that Duke’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) will be partnering with us to keep this going, and to expand it further. The discussion groups will officially become part of ARC’s STEM Advancement through Group Engagement (SAGE) program, and the undergraduates who lead the groups will have the title peer facilitator. With joint investment from both the ARC and the Department of Biochemistry, we expect to be able to bring on more peer facilitators than before, and those peer facilitators will benefit from participating in ARC’s training programs. ARC will also help with program administration and logistics.
Students consistently told us that the discussion groups in the summer and fall enhanced their learning. Working together on problems in small groups helped students to learn, and discussing the content with peer facilitators who had already been through the course and mastered it provided students with invaluable advice on how to approach the material. It is very exciting that we will be able to continue this and make it stronger.