How to run an effective Learning Assistants program
We welcome Eleanor Close, who will tell us how they run the Learning Assistants program at Texas State University. Their presentation is intended to be the starting point for discussions on how we can draw on their experience and expertise to develop our own Learning Assistants program.
The Department of Physics at the University of Oslo has a long tradition of offering tutorials to students. These tutorials are run by tutors, many of whom are faculty but some of whom are undergraduates who recently completed the courses they tutor. The training offered to tutors have to date not differentiated between these groups.
Since 2002, a specific program for training undergraduate tutors---called the Learning Assistants (LA) program---has gained traction in the US. With significant research evidence for its effectiveness, the program has spread from its birthplace at the University of Colorado Boulder to a wide range of institutions across North America. One of these institutions is Texas State University, the home institution of our guests Hunter Close and Eleanor Close.
Our goal is to learn from the experiences at Texas State to further develop our tutorial training program at the Department of Physics, focussing specifically on the training of our undergraduate students (called 'LA Oslo'). Beyond offering high quality tutoring to our students, we wish to offer training and experiences to pre-service teachers at the University of Oslo as well as to science students in an effort to recruit larger numbers to the teaching profession.
0915--1015: Presentation by Eleanor Close about the LA program at Texas State (see abstract below).
1015--1030: Coffee break.
1030--1115: [Optional] Plenary and group discussions about how to develop a similar LA program at the Deparment of Physics (and in other departments) at UiO.
1115--1200: [Optional] Lunch and informal discussions.
We also welcome and encourage attendance by faculty from other departments. You are welcome to only join for the presentation.
Eleanor Close's presentation:
Creating an inclusive teaching & learning community through the Learning Assistant program model
In the physics department at Texas State University, we are in our fourth year of implementing a Learning Assistant (LA) program supporting research-based instructional changes in our calculus-based introductory course sequence. In this talk, I will describe the Learning Assistant model for course reform and teacher recruitment; implementation of the model at Texas State and at my previous (much smaller) institution, Seattle Pacific University, including a brief discussion of funding and logistical considerations; and themes of identity transformation emerging from our research on the impact of program participation. An overarching theme in both institutions has been the creation of an inclusive community around the practice of physics education, within an academic setting that includes formal learning environments that value and promote the development of interactive academic skills such as argumentation and group collaboration. At Texas State we are interested in examining how being part of the LA community changes participants’ self-concepts and their day-to-day practice. We have found that in addition to becoming more confident and competent in physics, LAs perceive themselves to have increased competence in communication and a stronger sense of belonging to a supportive and collaborative community. Participation in the LA program also changes their ways of learning and of being students, both within and beyond physics.