The Learning Assistant Program at Colorado State University is a partnership between The Institute for Learning and Teaching and several academic departments.
Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate students invested in supporting the learning experience of fellow students. LAs partner with students enrolled in a particular course to expand their understanding of course content, strengthen their strategies for learning, and enhance their connection to campus.
As part of the instructional team, LAs collaborate with faculty to make the learning experience more accessible and engaging for students. LAs are different from Teaching Assistants (TAs) because they focus on supporting students in their learning, rather than supporting the instructor in their teaching. (Talbot, Hartley, Marzetta & Wee, 2015)
Our LA Program works to support students, LAs, and faculty in transforming undergraduate courses so they involve more active learning and more closely align with research-based educational strategies.
Talbot, R., Hartley, L., Marzetta, K. & Wee, B. (2015). Transforming undergraduate science education with learning assistants: student satisfaction in large enrollment courses. Journal of College Science Teaching, 44(5), 28-34
Learning Assistants (LAs) are students whom have previously done well in a course and are seeking to help students strengthen their learning strategies and master course material. Informed by established learning theory, LAs are trained to use varied pedagogical practices such as facilitating group activities and discussions. Here are some further details of what the LA role entails.
What Do LAs Do?
Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate peer educators who help to facilitate students’ learning both in & out of class. The LA experience involves practice, preparation, and pedagogy to support students’ success as well as LA’s success within the role.
CSU’s Learning Assistant (LA) Program is based on an evidence-informed model of peer-to peer academic support, and research strongly indicates that implementing the LA model with fidelity positive impacts all students (and positively impacts students from underrepresented & minoritized backgrounds even more). In fact, our data shows that LA-supported sections of courses have higher student success rates.
Alongside course instructors, our LAs work to make learning accessible and engaging for students, contribute to students’ success, and have a great time throughout it all.
On average, LAs work about 8-10 hours per week, spending their time:
working with the instructor and fellow LAs at weekly prep meetings to strategize how to best support students
attending lectures (and recitations) to facilitate active learning activities & address students’ questions
offering drop-in support to students during group learning sessions in TILT’s Great Hall
strengthening students’ knowledge and skills through one-on-one & small group tutoring
helping students prepare for upcoming exams through exam review sessions
reviewing course materials to further their own knowledge of course content
sharing their perspective and offering suggestions to improve students’ learning and experience in the course