1/28/2014 Peter Durantine

New Mentoring Center to Enhance Student Experience in Math, Sciences

  • Franklin & Marshall College senior Jin Hwang, one of the biology tutors at the College's new Quantitative & Science Center, provides peer-to-peer help to students. (Photo by Alexander Monelli) 

Students returning for the spring semester at Franklin & Marshall College have a new resource to help them better grasp complex concepts in math and the sciences.

Quantitative & Science Center, located in renovated space behind the checkout desk on the first floor of Martin Library of the Sciences, comprises a team of peer tutors available to help fellow students with questions about math, chemistry and biology coursework and lab work.

"The center's first initiative is to broaden and strengthen peer tutoring for science and quantitative disciplines," Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology and Interim Director Ellie Rice said. "The overall goal is to improve student-learning outcomes through peer-to-peer guidance."

This approach is similar to the popular Writing Center, which is staffed by peers who help students with writing assignments.

Senior biology major Munsha Sidhu, the head biology tutor and a quantitative fellow, expects students to embrace the center.

"I think it's something everyone is looking forward to," Sidhu said. "I think it can change the way people look at science and math at F&M."  

  • Biology tutors senior Munsha Sidhu, junior Luk Olenginski, sophomore Marissa Miller, junior Rajat Joshi, senior Jin Hwang, senior Liz Heppenheimer, sophomore Ken Davidson and Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology and Interim Director Ellie Rice outside Martin Library of the Sciences, where Franklin & Marshall College's new Quantitative & Science Center is located. (Photo by Melissa Hess)

Junior chemistry major Ryan Brenner, the head chemistry tutor and another quantitative fellow, agreed.

"One of the center's common practices will be to help students formulate questions they can take back to their professors for additional guidance," Brenner said.

Sidhu and Brenner have been peer tutors since high school, and both worked in F&M's Polaris Math and Science Tutoring, a former student-run, peer-tutoring program.

In addition to individual and drop-in tutoring, the center will experiment with a supplemental instruction (SI) model, featuring student leaders who attend class. The SI leaders will facilitate one-hour work-sessions in which students can work on practice problems, develop effective study habits, and process key lecture points, Sidhu said. The center offers drop-in hours and weekly appointments.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemistry Department Chair Jennifer Morford views the center as another innovative tool to help F&M students succeed academically.

"I think it's great for our students to have as many resources available to them as needed," Morford said. "Our goal has always been the success of our students."

F&M received a $175,000 grant from Alden Trust, which financed the construction of the center. An advisory board will help shape the center's long-term vision and subsequent initiatives.

The tutoring program, developed in consultation with faculty the last two years, is a responsive, flexible approach driven by department-specific concerns, Rice said.

"This is a work in progress, beginning with a pilot phase where we welcome feedback as plans proceed," she said.  

Chemistry and biology will experiment with several approaches to peer tutoring in the spring semester. Current peer tutoring programs in math, computer science, physics and astronomy coordinated by the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs will continue, but will receive enhanced support through the Quantitative & Science Center, Rice said.    

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