Education Grant, Einstein's Proteges Help Students Make the Grades

Jan. 20, 2004

The UA has received a $480,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its innovative program of helping students help themselves. Einstein's Proteges recruits University students as preceptors to help other students in the same class. The students form study teams led by a student preceptor who has been trained by the Teaching Teams Program.

The program is based on a UA pilot project called "Einstein's Daughters" to help at-risk students. Einstein's Daughters found that three-quarters of the students who volunteered for study groups led by student preceptors stayed with it and raised their grades.

The federal grant runs for three years, after which it is intended that the UA pick up the cost. In the fall semester, Einstein's Proteges involved two foundational courses and five freshman composition classes. The goal is to add six to10 additional courses each semester. By the end of the grant in the spring of 2006, the group hopes to be working with 20-25 courses each semester.

The program identifies potential course candidates, usually introductory classes with large enrollments, and then interviews with instructors. Preceptors are chosen by the instructors and trained. They receive three credits after a training course in communication, learning competencies and information literacy.

The program has been so successful that the UA is collaborating with two other partners, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, to spread the program around the country. The UA is investing an additional $360,000 in matching funds over the next three years.

A collaboration with the University Learning Center and the UA Libraries was critical to expand the program, said Karen Lutrick, the coordinator of the Teaching Teams Program.

"Because they are always looking for ways to get involved in actual courses, they (University Learning Center) committed two people's time to the project," Lutrick said. Then, she said, Library staff were brought in "because we saw the potential for expanding the program from study skills to study skills and information literacy."

This semester as a part of the project, faculty can apply for small grants to develop preceptor programs for their individual courses.

Students looking to enroll in an Einstein's Protégé class can find a list of courses on the Teaching Teams Web site.

The grant is a University collaboration of the Teaching Teams Program, the University Learning Center and the Library.