Academic Gains through Improved Learning Effectiveness (AGILE)

Students working together on academic tasks.

Peer Academic Assistance Programs

To be an effective and successful learner in any class, supplementing your own individual review of material is important. Spending at least two hours of academic time-on-task outside of the class for every hour in the class is associated with success. Remember: cramming doesn’t work!  Find several shorter times each week to review and practice the course material.

There are a number of programs and services at USM that employ current USM students as academic peer assistants. All of these programs and services are grounded in AGILE learning strategies, including planning ahead, self-testing through active practice, avoiding the illusion of knowing, and learning in groups. Instead of treating learning as a solo activity, learning with others can be far more productive and enjoyable! Below are brief descriptions of each academic peer support program.


Learning Assistants (LAs) LAs are undergraduate students who have taken the course previously, and are embedded in the course to foster an active learning environment.  LAs prepare the learning activities with the faculty each week, and then facilitate small-group practice. The LA Program is the only academic assistance approach that supports all the students in the course, since it occurs within the classroom during scheduled class meeting time. For more about the LA Program, visit the LA Program website
Peer Assisted Study Session (P.A.S.S.) Leaders A P.A.S.S. leader is a student who has previously taken a course and now in the course again to note how concepts are explained that semester and observe what concepts are the most difficult for students. The P.A.S.S. leader determines some of the most difficult concepts from the week, and designs a one-hour group practice session to be offered outside of class. P.A.S.S. is based on the Supplemental Instruction framework.
Subject-based Tutors Tutors provide 1:1 support and active practice in specific subject areas. This peer support approach is not just for the struggling student, rather any student who wants to self-test and practice with concepts. Unlike the LA and P.A.S.S. models, the content of the tutoring session is determined entirely by the student. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and make tutoring part of their weekly “academic time-on-task”. Appointments can be in person, or accessed live online via Zoom. Visit the Overview of Tutoring at USM site to learn more.
Writing Assistants It can be challenging to step out of our "own head" to evaluate our writing. This is where collaboration can be extremely helpful. One of the best resources for this active, collaborative process at USM is to work with a Writing Assistant. Writing Assistants do not edit papers, rather help students become stronger writers throughout the entire writing process. Check out the Writing Assistants site to learn more.
Technology Assistants Assisting students 1:1 along with designing workshops to develop comfort with Microsoft Office programs, Google applications, blogging programs, software used in online courses, and other technology tools for academic purposes. Head over to the Technology Assistants site to learn more.
Peer Academic Coaches

In addition to topic-based tutoring, students can increase their academic skills at the Learning Commons. These skills include how to effectively and efficiently read textbooks, take notes, manage time, and prepare for and take exams. Visit the Academic Coaches site to learn more.

Learning Commons Navigators

If you are new to doing research as a USM student, it can be helpful to meet with a Learning Commons Navigator at the Portland campus location (second floor of the Glickman Library). A Learning Commons Navigator is a current USM undergraduate or graduate student trained in guiding peers through the initial steps of conducting academic research. Click Meet with a Learning Commons Navigator to learn more.

(Note: The minimum GPA requirement for this position only is 2.6)

Peer Study Guides

Peer Study Guides coordinate, promote, and facilitate weekly group study sessions for courses in which they are currently enrolled. Using best practices outlined in the training program, Peer Study Guides work collaboratively with students from their class to test memory, check for understanding, prepare for upcoming exams or other learning assessments. Peer Study Guides also share relevant USM learning resources with students from the course to support ongoing individual student effort.

By applying for any of the positions described above, it also means that you're willing to commit to participating in the initial training weekend and flexible pathways for ongoing professional development (throughout the semester). If you are a current USM student with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (cumulative and in the related discipline) and would like to apply for any of these academic peer support positions, choose your application below!

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