The PLUMS workshops provide a place where students can actively and collaboratively engage with science and mathematics in a structured, supportive environment. Begun in 2004 for General and Organic Chemistry and expanded in 2009 to include Biology, Mathematics, and Physics, PLUMS (Peer-Led Undergraduate Mentoring System) is a set of peer-led supplementary workshops for gateway courses in the sciences. PLUMS mentors hold several identical evening workshop sessions per week for each class. During each 2-hour workshop, students work through a set of activities related to the week's lectures, homework, and readings. The problems might be presented through games, puzzles, worksheets, or practice exams, each created by the PLUMS mentors, and archived here in D-space.
The primary focus of the workshops is active learning—that the students be doing and not just watching or listening. Passively listening to lecture and skimming through a textbook will not suffice to learn complicated scientific topics. The second critical facet of our workshop program is collaboration and mentoring. Not only is working with others a critical skill in the workplace, but the students feel more encouraged and supported when they are working in a room full of other students than when struggling alone in their rooms. The senior student mentors directly model what successful collaboration is about when they work together with faculty, other mentors, and the younger students. The third facet is that the workshops are not remedial. Following the lead of Uri Treisman, we focus on excellence in gateway courses for all students. The workshops are aimed at students from all levels, because everyone can benefit from actively participating in her own learning and working with others.
With PLUMS workshops available across various programs of study, the ideals of the program (working collaboratively, actively solving problems) are experienced as part of the fabric of studying science at Mount Holyoke College.