Learning Assistant Program

The Physics Learning Assistant Program is a new opportunity open (by application) to undergraduate students who have completed one year of calculus-based physics (physics 121 and physics 123). This is the first year that this opportunity is available, due to the generosity of the Dean of the College of Science, Technology, and Health. Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduates hired to facilitate small-group interaction in our large-enrollment courses and are paid a modest stipend (~$1,500/year) to work 5 hours per week in various aspects of course transformation. We are hopeful that this will become a university-wide program that will continue next year and into the future. 

What do Learning Assistants do?

LA's will help transform our large-enrollment introductory courses by helping to create environments in which students can interact with one another, engage in collaborative problem solving, articulate and defend their ideas, and explicitly discuss aspects of the nature of science and the nature of learning science.

Learning Assistants focus on three main themes; content, practice, and pedagogy. These themes are brought into the experience through three related activities:

  1. Assisting Lead Instructors in the Classroom: LAs help facilitate collaboration among learning teams of 6-20 students by formatively assessing student understanding and asking guiding questions. This can occur through the facilitation of small discussions groups in classes and/or in recitations/help sessions. LAs will use good questioning skills and work to involve all students in meaningful group work.
  2. Meeting Weekly to Discuss Content and Pedagogy:  LA's meet weekly with their faculty instructors to plan for the upcoming week, reflect on the previous week, and analyze student assessment data.
  3. Participating in the Assessment Program: LAs will be expected to participate in a variety of observations, assessments, and questionnaires. The data will help track course students and LAs' experiences. 

What are some of the goals of the Learning Assistants program?

In addition to transforming the introductory course and improving learning, it is our hope that the Learning Assistant will help personalize the classroom, improve student retention, recruit students for teaching secondary school, and help prepare students to be excellent Teaching Assistants in future graduate study. 

Misc. Links

Learning Assistant Alliance

March 3 USM Presentation to Faculty

**The image above and a good deal of the text on this page comes from the Univ. of Colorado Learning Assistant Program