About the Learning Assistant Program
What is a Learning Assistant?
A Learning Assistant (LA) is a high-performing undergraduate student who is hired to help with teaching a course they have successfully completed. As opposed to other undergraduate programs, learning assistants help in transforming the class to focus on active and collaborative learning.
The Learning Assistant program originated at the University of Colorado- Boulder and has since spread to other universities across the US.
About the Program
The three key elements of the LA program are:
1. SED course on STEM education
New learning Assistants take a weekly 2-credit course offered through the School of Education (SED). The LAs read and discuss relevant STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education pedagogy, as well as specific discipline-based (biology, chemistry, or physics) techniques, to aid in their teaching. Some of the topics include metacognition, mental models and misconceptions, and multiple intelligences.
2. Course integration and structured staff interaction
At the same time that LAs are taking the STEM education course, they are using this knowledge in helping teach discussion or lab sections. The LAs meet weekly with the professors and teaching fellows for the course during which they share their knowledge of science pedagogy as well as their own experiences as students in the course. LAs work closely with TFs and professors to design discussion activities and materials to improve student learning.
3. Teaching alongside TFs in discussion or lab sections
Working alongside a TF in three discussion sections or two lab sections per week, the LA offers students a unique perspective as someone who “has been in
their shoes” as a student in the course. Students often find it easier to approach LAs for help. By enhancing interaction and inquiry among students, LAs promote active learning in a student-centered, small-group class environment.
LAs are paid a modest stipend (at least ~$700/semester) to work 10-12 hours per week in various aspects of course transformation. But more importantly, LAs themselves benefit in many ways from being LAs.
- In helping teach a class they’ve already taken, LAs deepen their understanding of foundational concepts.
- By learning about science pedagogy, LAs demonstrate a shift in approach to their own learning, as also reflected in higher GRE and MCAT scores.
- LAs experience the challenges and rewards of teaching, opening the door to potential careers in science education.
Learning Assistant Supported Courses
|Department||Transformed Courses with Learning Assistants
|Biology||BI107: Biology I
BI108: Biology II
BI118: Biology II (Honors)
|Chemistry||CH101: General Chemistry I
CH102: General Chemistry II
|Chemistry – Sargent||CH171: Principles of General Chemistry I
CH273: Principles of Biochemistry I
|Engineering Core||EK301: Engineering Mechanics I
|Neuroscience||NE102: Introduction to Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology
NE203: Principles of Neuroscience with Lab
NE204: Introduction to Computational Models of Brain & Behavior
|Physics||PY105: Elementary Physics I
PY106: Elementary Physics II
PY211: General Physics I
PY212: General Physics II
PY241: Principles of General Physics I
PY242: Principles of General Physics II
PY251: Principles of Physics I
PY252: Principles of Physics II
PY313: Elementary Modern Physics
PY351: Modern Physics I
PY355: Methods of Theoretical Physics
PY408: Intermediate Mechanics
PY451: Quantum Physics I