About the Learning Assistant Program

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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.

LA classLearning Assistant Benefits

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