Peer Teaching

The Undergraduate Peer Teaching Program in Biology offers students the opportunity to serve as learning assistants under the supervision of professors, or graduate or undergraduate teaching assistants. From semester to semester, Peer Teaching opportunities variously come available in laboratory and in lecture classes.

Peer Teachers make substantial contributions to the learning experience by offering students a further degree of individualized attention. Perhaps more importantly, Peer Teachers can alter the dynamic of the students' learning experience, by blurring distinctions between teaching and learning, between professor and student, in ways that foster excitement and enthusiasm. The effectiveness of Peer Teachers is clear from the responses we consistently receive from their students. In fact, many of our Peer Teachers mention their own experiences with a Peer Teacher in previous semesters as a factor in their decision to apply to the program.  Peer Teachers find the experience enriching and rewarding. It gives them the opportunity to develop their communication skills and to explore their interests in teaching, while expanding and deepening their own knowledge of the topics at hand. The contributions of our Peer Teachers are formally recognized within the department and at the university level each year, but participants in the program are not paid or otherwise compensated for their services; Peer Teaching is an act of volunteerism and citizenship in the service of the University of Virginia.


Biology 2100 (Introduction to Biology: Cell Biology and Genetics Laboratory) is offered in the fall of each academic year to more than 600 students in 25 or more 24-student lab sections. Each section is staffed by a graduate lab instructor and an undergraduate peer teacher. Biology 2100 encompasses 2 primary areas: DNA analysis (extraction, cloning, transformation, restriction mapping, sequencing, bioinformatics) and enzyme analysis. Peer teachers will work closely with students in one lab section per week to enhance the classroom learning experience and promote further understanding of the material.



Biology 2040/2200 (Introduction to Biology: Organismal and Evolutionary Biology) is offered in the spring of each academic year to approximately 700 students in 30 or more 24-student lab sections. Each section is staffed by a graduate lab instructor and at least one undergraduate Peer Teacher.