by Krisalyn Kuklock
My first experience with the peer academic leader (PAL) program was being a recipient of its services as a first semester freshman in an Intro to professional nursing course. I was intrigued by the idea of a student, who was not very much older than I, allowed a position alongside an experienced faculty member to teach college students.
Of course, I was aware of undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants whose role is to instruct laboratories and/or offer students other avenues of receiving help. In my own laboratory courses, the teaching assistants lectured briefly about material covered in the lab booklet and demonstrated the procedures for the day; but the PAL program was clearly something different.
My initial decision to pursue the PAL program was, not surprisingly, sparked by watching my own PAL stand up in front of a classroom of college students and lecture. As someone who enjoys public speaking and has an interest in becoming a future nursing instructor, I thought the opportunity would serve as a benefit by providing some experience as a sort of test trial to discover if teaching in my future field is something I want to or am capable of doing. However, this past month of PAL training has opened my eyes to the true advantage of a PAL position: a platform for innovation.
I am pursuing a position as a Peer Academic Leader at an exciting time. Our course instructor for the semester-long PAL training course is exposing our class to a new way of thinking; PALs are supposed to be innovative and interesting, as well as relevant and helpful to the students we teach. It should be mentioned that these students are often a year or two our juniors in coursework. This is a difficult task! We are given plenty of ideas on how to make our lectures interesting and engaging, and those two words are thrown around a lot in training; but we all know that the end product of our lectures is learning. So how am I going to get students interested enough to pique their personal curiosity and become active in their personal learning process? What will I do to change their way of thinking and inspire them? These are the questions I am excited to answer and a challenge that I, as an Honors College student, am thrilled to accept. Rather than viewing this role as a way to test my skills in teaching, I now realize that being a PAL is an incredible opportunity to experiment with new ways of lecturing and inspiring students. This may be ambitious, but my goal is to intrigue every student in the classroom; and with forty minutes to an hour each class to do so, the possibilities seem endless.
The PAL position is available to majors with Freshman Interest Groups and First-Year Seminar Courses.
To find out how to become a PAL in your major visit: www.uta.edu/pal