Learning Assistant Information

Benefits of the LA Program

How do LAs benefit?

LAs learn evidence-based teaching techniques in a weekly pedagogy seminar to help other students learn more effectively. LAs increase their course content knowledge along with their communication and teaching abilities. This program is based on the nationally successful and evidence-based Learning Assistant program from CU-Boulder. Here is a recent NPR story on the CU-Boulder LA program.

 Their participation also improves their (self-reported) ability to facilitate inclusive learning in diverse classrooms (Table 2, LA program summary report).

How do students benefit?

Students get extra help in lecture and discussion, extremely fast responses to questions posted on the discussion forum, and additional office hours each week. LAs also help students engage in discussion to increase student critical reasoning and facilitate student group collaboration. Moreover, the LAs are often seen as more accessible and approachable.

A recent PLOS article found that peer-led team learning (i.e. having peers facilitate group problem-solving in a manner similar to that of LAs) helps under-represented minority students succeed in STEM classes.

 In a chapter on retaining under-represented minorities in STEM, the National Academies Press highlighted five successful programs in the U.S., two of which involve Learning Assistants and all of which involve some form of peer interaction.

To learn more about how the LA program has been benefiting the LAs and students on the UCLA campus, refer to this summary of the LA program’s progress.

LA Testimonials

“Being an LA is such a gratifying and eye-opening experience. In addition to all the techniques and tools you will learn in the pedagogy seminar, there are a lot of things you learn “on the job” from interacting with students. For me, these students have taught me just as much as I have taught them. “ -Jennifer, Learning Assistant

“All in all I will say that you are in for a truly rewarding experience. This program will teach you the fundamentals of learning, how we actually engrave things in our memory, and why a positive and energetic environment in which students actively participate is key to a successful education.” -Christian, Biochem 153A Learning Assistant

“I have learned so much that has helped me not only improve my teaching skills, but also improve pertinent life skills such as public speaking and critical thinking…This program has also deeply strengthened my interests in a teaching career in the future.” –Ronnel, LS3 Learning Assistant

“When you help a students reach an answer on their own, it is incredibly rewarding. I was helping a group of students with a problem, and when they figured out the answer they all screamed “OH MY GOSH THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!” It was amazing to know that I helped them learn a new idea and they understood exactly what I was trying to teach them.” –Emma, Biochem 153A Learning Assistant

What do we ask of LAs?

The program consists of the following weekly commitments:

  • 1 credit pedagogy seminar co-taught by Dr. Shaked, Dr. Tienson-Tseng, and/or other STEM faculty (1 hour seminar + 2 hr/wk reading and time to write weekly reflections and work on course projects)
  • 1-2 hours weekly meeting with instructor(s) and TAs to go over content and likely misconceptions for following week
  •  2-6 hours of the following: attend lecture, lab and/or discussion sections to foster collaborative learning
  •  1-3 office hours with TAs
  •  1-2 hours of other tasks (e.g. looking ahead at lectures or homework; responding to questions on discussion board)

New LAs are asked to commit at least 9 hr/wk (for 3 units) and ideally 12 hr/wk (for 4 units).

In the pedagogy seminar, we will go over the theory of learning and strategies that will help increase student learning. This includes weekly readings, reflections, and projects that LAs spend an average of 2 hr/wk on. The seminar includes LAs from across the sciences, math and computer science.

Here is a detailed table of weekly expectations for each type of LA.

For more information, check out the Pedagogy Seminar Syllabus.

How to Apply

Interested in being an LA?

Applications for Fall 2018 are now closed. Please check back around Week 5 of this quarter for the next round of applications.

Please note that all new LAs must be able to attend the Pedagogy Seminar on Tuesdays from 4-5pm.

As a campus with a continually growing diverse student body, we encourage applications from individuals with a commitment to mentoring under-represented demographics in the sciences.

For your reference: General application timeline (varies by quarter)

*Please note that this old timeline is for your reference. Fall 2018 will follow a different timeline due to the summer break.

General LA Program Application Timeline

Weeks before quarter Head LA Applicants New and Returning LA Applicants
6 weeks Applications open
4-5 weeks Head LAs selected for all courses
2-3 weeks LA acceptances sent out
Head LA Orientation
0 Head LA Check-In New LA Orientation

FAQ

What classes can I be an LA for?

The courses participating in the LA program varies each quarter, but so far we have had LAs helping in the Physics 5 series, Physics 1 series, Math 31A/B, CS30 series, Life Sciences 7 series, Life Sciences 23L, Life Sciences 30A/B, Biochemistry 153 series, Chemistry 14 series, and Chemistry 20/30 series. The program is expanding and more courses may be added, so keep checking back.

Is the LA program only for STEM classes?

The LA program focuses on benefiting science majors and faculty teaching large introductory science and math courses in particular. 

Can I be an LA for more than one class?

Yes! You can LA for more than one class in a quarter if you choose. However, this is not recommended.

Can I be an LA for more than one quarter?

Absolutely! There are many returning LAs who choose to LA for the same course more than once or for different courses. We also have experienced LAs who become Pedagogy, Head, and Program Development LA’s. This can involve a variety of duties, including observing and working with LAs, helping to run the weekly content meeting with LAs, organizing the LAs to be most effective, helping to assess the effectiveness of the LA program, etc. However, starting Fall 2018, LA’s cannot receive credit for more than 4 quarters total.

Am I allowed to be a new LA if I cannot make it to the pedagogy seminar?

Unfortunately, no. The pedagogy seminar teaches LAs evidence-based teaching practices that are essential to facilitating active learning in the classroom. The LA program and pedagogy seminar are ongoing, so you can always apply to be an LA another quarter. Pedagogy Seminar is Tuesdays 4-5PM and we aim to keep this time consistent every quarter so that you can plan accordingly!

I want to LA for a specific class, but the instructor currently is not a part of the LA program. Is there anything I can do?

Yes, the Instructors page includes information about the LA program that you can share with them.