Faculty FAQs

PASS targets historically difficult subjects. In other words, this subject contains content that students overall consider to be challenging. PASS is designed to support faculty teaching and is assigned to a subject because of what is being taught.

There are a number of reasons that students struggle in college courses. Some students have difficulty in certain courses because the subject was not taught, or it was taught differently, in high school. For others, the depth and breadth of the course make it difficult for students to organize; the material may be too conceptual when they are used to dealing with things on a more concrete level. Still others may have difficulty with the class size, sensing anonymity and obscurity with a new classroom format and structure. The rigors of college-level courses often catch students off-guard. And lastly, some students may have poor study skills.

PASS courses are re-evaluated each spring for the upcoming academic year. The SSC partners with colleges to determine the courses in most need of support. The guidelines we take into consideration when selecting courses are:

  • Low success rates (70% or below on average)
  • General Education Requirement (GER) for most majors OR a gateway course into a common major
  • Large enrollment (40 or more students per section)
  • Sufficient PASS participation if offered before (at least 30-40% of students attend during the semester)
  • Extent of other support resources offered (SSC tutoring, departmental tutoring, etc)
  • Support of course faculty, department, and college 

The PASS Program is a component of the Student Success Center (SSC), UAH’s learning center. The program coordinator is responsible for training, monitoring, and supervising the PASS leaders. If faculty members are concerned about something they see or hear regarding a PASS leader, they should alert the PASS Coordinator. PASS involves the following key persons:

  • PASS Coordinator—a trained professional responsible for identifying targeted courses, gaining faculty support, selecting and training PASS leaders, and evaluating the program.
  • Faculty—instructors from identified targeted courses invite and approve of PASS support for their classes. PASS faculty screen PASS leaders for course competency and approve candidate selections. Faculty members also reinforce PASS program support, advocating this academic assistance to all students.
  • PASS leaders—students deemed course competent and trained in proactive learning and study strategies.
  • Students—the voluntary participants in the PASS sessions and, although mentioned last, the most crucial component of PASS.

PASS is not intended to create additional work for faculty. You can support PASS by granting time for occasional in-class announcements and be supportive of the program by encouraging students to take advantage of PASS. Faculty should avoid the suggestion that only those who do poorly will benefit. Additionally, we will be in contact with you about the following aspects of the program: 1) assisting us in selecting and approving candidates for PASS leaders in your subject, and 2) assisting us by providing information for PASS program evaluation: a copy of the official class roster and a copy of grades after the first exam and at the conclusion of the subject. Note: Institutional approval has been given to collect this data and students’ right to privacy regarding this information will be fully protected.

The PASS leader will attend all class meetings; maintain a professional attitude about matters such as class standards, grades, and student complaints; discourage students from attending PASS as a substitute for class; share PASS materials with the cooperating faculty member to use, if possible; and provide feedback to the cooperating faculty member if requested to do so.

The PASS leader’s class attendance has a twofold purpose:

  • To model effective classroom behavior by arriving on time, listening, taking copious lecture notes, reading assigned chapters prior to lecture, completing required assignments, and observing what’s happening in the classroom.
  • To gather information that helps him/her gain a sense of what you expect from your students regarding the concepts and ideas you emphasize in lecture. This also helps the PASS leader process the information he/she will use during PASS.

The PASS leader is NOT available for grading exams or papers, or to proctor exams. As a rule, we request that you not ask PASS leaders to run copies and errands or to distribute exams, graded papers, and other class literature. It’s important for the PASS leader to maintain his/her peer status among the students in the class. PASS leaders are paid to attend class, keep up with the material, and run study group sessions. PASS leaders typically do not answer questions you ask the class; they are not there as a student. The PASS leader is in class to get a better sense of the areas emphasized during lectures so that they can design and develop more focused PASS sessions.

If you have concerns about your PASS leader, immediately contact the coordinator, Kristen Tunison via phone at 256.824.6216 or email at pass@uah.edu to discuss your concerns and resolve the issue.

PASS leaders are different from graduate assistants, teaching assistants, or tutors in a number of categories. The charts on the next page emphasize these differences and help explain why it is important to maintain this key element of the PASS Model, which dictates use of peer students as PASS leaders. PASS leaders:

  • Are model students who do not profess to know it all—if a PASS leader doesn’t know the answer to a student’s question, he/she will model effective research methods and/or the importance of utilizing the instructor’s office hours.
  • Relate to students on their level.
  • Teach others in the class how to be successful by integrating specific study skills with course content, thus promoting transferable skills.
  • Encourage and elicit group participation with collaborative learning techniques.
  • Remain student-oriented—focused on areas of concerns from a student’s perspective.
  • Show patience and are willing to try various strategies to help students understand course material.
  • Do not lecture, but direct collaborative learning exercises, encouraging students to take responsibility for the process and application of course material.


Characteristic Model student Content specialist
Status Peer Authority figure
Mode Group participation/collaborative learning Lecture or Q&A session
Orientation Student-oriented Teacher-oriented
Instructional Duties Leads group—leaves teaching to the professor Re-lectures or re-teaches group

Unlike traditional study groups, PASS leaders are required to attend all classes. While PASS leaders demonstrate proficiency in the content area, they also model the learning processes necessary for content mastery. PASS leaders function as model students rather than authority figures. They are trained to integrate specific study skills with the course content so that students can become more independent learners.

No! PASS attempts to help students learn how to be successful in the course, regardless of the way you teach. It is not our intention to dictate how you should teach your class. PASS will support your teaching.

The PASS leader will provide you with student feedback if you wish. Because they regularly meet with the students in smaller groups, the PASS leaders may have insight into concepts that are troubling students, misunderstood test questions or unclear assignments. If you would like, your PASS leader can share this information with you. Understand, however, this information is not intended to be a criticism of your teaching.

Absolutely NOT! PASS leaders do not facilitate the study groups so students can complete homework together, write group papers, or complete take-home exams. On the contrary, the purpose of PASS is to help students become successful and independent learners. By doing their work for them, PASS leaders run the risk of making the students believe that it is not necessary for them to understand the work or how to go about completing their assignments. Instead, PASS leaders may discuss typical problems, create new problems, or work problems that were not assigned. PASS leaders may discuss how to organize material, how to prepare for assignments or exams, and how to develop problem-solving abilities.

PASS is intended to supplement what the students do on their own time. After attending PASS, students should be better prepared to work problems alone, write a clear paper, or prepare for an exam. PASS supports students, not by doing the work for them, but by helping them figure out how to do it successfully on their own.

A typical PASS session is an hour-long meeting in a classroom on campus and might include a review of lecture and assigned readings, group work and discussion, problem-solving and critical thinking activities, or a mock exam. The PASS leaders’ primary focus is to assist students in understanding the course material while helping them develop effective study skills that are applicable to the content. The PASS leaders will never structure PASS sessions as a forum to re-lecture to students who missed class.

No. While some students may attend PASS prior to an exam, national data suggests that students who regularly attend improve their class standing by one-half to one whole letter grade. With this understanding, PASS leaders constantly promote PASS as guaranteed study time, encouraging students to participate in PASS on a weekly basis.

As a rule, we do not support providing extra credit to students for attending PASS for three reasons:

  • Some students may not be able to attend PASS because of schedule conflicts. As a result these students would have no way to participate in the extra credit.
  • Asking the PASS leaders to police the sign-in sheet gives conflicting messages. For example, if a person attends the PASS session for five minutes—signs in and then leaves—should the PASS leader report or ignore it? Having to monitor attendance in such a way takes the PASS leader’s attention away from the purpose of PASS.
  • Lastly, in an attempt to analyze the effects of PASS participation, it would be undesirable to have a student’s grade artificially enhanced by “bonus points” given for merely having a name show up on an attendance sheet. If there is any effect to be gained through PASS attendance, we would like to be able to say with greater confidence that it was the result of what was experienced during PASS.

Faculty should expect that we will cooperate with them in selecting candidates for PASS leaders and place leaders only with the approval of the cooperating faculty member; train all PASS leaders according to established guidelines and standards; monitor the activities and presentations of PASS leaders; provide supplies, training, in-service experiences, and consultations; provide cooperating faculty with an end-of-term comparative analysis of student performance.