The PASS program can be adapted to suit your topic and your students. Once you have established what you expect PASS to achieve in your topic you can start to consider how you will achieve this through the structure, activities and content of the PASS sessions.
Each session may incorporate a combination of different content styles, or you may choose to try different types throughout the semester. Use the following table as a guide to which type of session content will target your goals.
Type of Content
|Structured||Topic coordinator is likely to be aware of problem concepts and be able to assign time within the PASS sessions for students to discuss these.||Employment of staff member to structure the content. If facilitators are used to structured activities they may not be qualified to determine content.|
|Discipline Specific||Content deals with difficult concepts that are specific to your topic. Students who have already mastered these concepts can offer assistance to other students and in doing so consolidate their own understanding.||Students may require a solid foundation of generic skills before they are able to tackle these difficult concepts.|
|Alignment with topic content||Immediately addresses issues raised in lectures. Students develop skills that are immediately useful to them and are therefore more likely to retain those skills. Students are able to grasp the current content of the topic and are more able to keep up with the topic requirements.||May be difficult to ensure that skills are directly or obviously related to the current topic content.|
|Generic||Provides generic skills to enable students to deal with academic requirements, such as essay writing or critical thinking.||Some students may not benefit from a broadly taught skill and may require a more specific problem based approach.|
|Unstructured||Students are able to concentrate on specific difficulties that they are having.||The session may loose focus if not facilitated well and possibly lead to students wasting time. More motivated students may feel that time is better spent in private study.|
Examples of fun PASS ideas:
Jigsaw is excellent for tasks that have several distinct aspects or components. Home teams are formed, with each team member taking responsibility for one aspect of the problem in question, researching it and then discussing it with their team mates. Expert teams are then formed of all the students responsible for the same aspect. The teams go over the material they are responsible for and plan how best to bring the results of their research and discussion back to their home groups. Positive interdependence is fostered because each student has different information needed to complete the task, hence the term “jigsaw”.
The Muddiest Point technique provides a high information return for a very low investment of time and energy. The technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: “What was the muddiest point in this activity?
The One-Minute Paper provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on how well your students are learning. At the end of the session, ask students to respond briefly to some variation on the following two questions: “What was the most important thing you learned during this session?” and “What important question(s) do you have regarding what you are still unsure of?” You can then structure your next activity so that these questions may be answered.
The Pyramid exercise involves students first working alone, then in pairs, then in fours, and so on. Normally after working in fours, they join in some form of whole group activity or discussion that involves the pooling of their conclusions or solutions. For example, in Stage 1, students could note down some questions of their own which relate to the activity topic. In Stage 2, pairs of students then try to answer one another’s questions. In Stage 3, pairs join together to make fours and, in the light of their discussion of the questions, identify general problems and areas of controversy in their activity topic.
MCQ Strategy: “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”
Have a pair of students at the front of the room, with the multiple choice questions on overhead. The pair then try to answer or discuss the answers among themselves. They are allowed to have ‘Lifelines’ as in the original game, where they can (a) ask the audience (b) ask a friend or (c) have a 50/50 of the answers. They could for example lose half of the points of the question by asking for the lifelines. This method promotes good discussion of all answer options.
(Most of the above exercises in cooperative and collaborative group learning are taken directly or adapted to suit the PASS context, from Felder R.M. & Brent, R. (1994), Cooperative Learning in Technical Courses: Procedures, Pitfalls & Payoffs. Habeshaw, S., Gibbs, G. & Habeshaw, T. (1998) 53 interesting things to do in your seminars and tutorials (3rd Edn.), and Active Learning Strategies.)