The Colorado Learning Assistant (LA) Model at the University of Colorado-Boulder seeks to achieve four goals:
- Curriculum & Course Transformation: to engage and support faculty in making transformations to their courses to improve the quality of education for undergraduates.
- Teacher Recruitment & Preparation: to recruit and prepare talented math, science, and engineering majors for careers in teaching.
- Institutional Change: to transform departmental cultures to value research-based teaching for ourselves and for our students.
- Discipline-Based Education Research: to continually measure the outcomes of our transformations.
The LA model has all of the following characteristics that distinguish it from other undergraduate teaching assistant programs:
- LAs work with groups of students, on group-worthy activities; they are part of the instructional team in transformed courses.
- LAs mainly assist learners rather than teachers.
- LAs participate in a special seminar targeted at helping them integrate content, pedagogy, and practice.
- Faculty meet with their LAs every week to plan instruction.
- The program focuses on teacher recruitment and preparation.
- A collaborative educational research program accompanies course transformations to evaluate the effects of the LA model.
Connect with other faculty on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus, and across the world, through our Learning Assistant Alliance website (http://laa.colorado.edu). Through this site you can learn how other institutions are utilizing Learning Assistants as well as access our online undergraduate assessment tool (LASSO).
The transformation of courses involves creating 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. To accomplish this, undergraduate Learning Assistants (LAs) are hired to facilitate small-group interaction. At the same time, the LAs make up the pool from which we recruit new K-12 teachers. LAs are paid a modest stipend (~$1,500/semester) to work 10 hours per week in various aspects of course transformation.
Although the LA experience is somewhat different for each course, the experience for all LAs involves three related activities:
- Content: LAs meet weekly with their faculty instructors to plan for the upcoming week, reflect on the previous week, and analyze student assessment data.
- Practice: LAs facilitate collaboration among learning teams of students by formatively assessing student understanding and asking guiding questions.
- Pedagogy: LAs from all departments attend a special Mathematics and Science Education seminar where they reflect on their own teaching and learning and make connections to relevant education literature.
Interested in Using LAs?
- Get in touch with your department coordinator to learn about the application process and discuss your ideas.
- Faculty that apply to use LAs agree to:
- use LAs to promote interaction and collaboration among students enrolled in the course
- meet in weekly planning sessions with the LAs who support their courses
- participate in ongoing community events
- evaluate transformations and assess learning in their own courses