Training new learning assistants
Use discussions, video cases and written assignments to train new learning assistants. New recruits can participate in the Learning Assistant Program at UiO.
Finding qualified and motivated students to work as learning assistants is an important element of planning a course. Administrative personnel often collaborate with course leaders to recruit, interview and train new learning assistants.
Things to consider when recruiting new learning assistants:
- Look for students with motivation to facilitate learning in others.
- Consider whether top grades are relevant or not relevant for the role.
- Diversity among learning assistant ensures role models for all students.
- Course leaders should interview applicants together with administrative colleagues.
- Consider asking applicants to write a short reflection about teaching and learning.
- Plan for continuity and long term engagement as learning assistants.
The learning assistants also benefit from their experiences, and research has shown that they perform better in their subsequent courses.
The Learning Assistant Program
A handful of course leaders at the Departments of Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry coordinate the basic training for new learning assistants. Course leaders at other Departments are welcome to use the resources and get involved in the shared program.
The training program runs over one whole semester, in parallel with teaching responsibilities in an associated course. New learning assistants across courses and Departments undergo their training together, and contribute to learning and reflections across disciplines.
The learning assistants use their experiences in conversations with other learning assistants, as they learn to observe, reflect and develop their practice.
The Learning Assistant Program covers the following topics:
- bringing out student ideas
- engaging students in dialogue
- facilitating student discussion and social interaction
- providing guidance while avoiding lecturing
- the role of learning goals and assessment
- using learning theories to facilitate student learning
- the importance of equity and diversity
For more information bout how learning assistants in your course can participate in the Learning Assistant Program, please contact postdoctoral researcher Tor Ole Odden at CCSE.
Course leaders can support the teaching team with weekly meetings that combine discussions about course content with reflection on pedagogical practices.
A framework for training learning assistants
Some Departments offer introductory pedagogy courses for learning assistants. Get in touch with the administration at your Department or at KURT to get help to plan training sessions for new learning assistants.
Overall goals for training programs:
- stimulate reflection around teaching and learning
- prepare learning assistants for seminars and interaction with students
- provide hands-on training with open questions and group discussions
- discuss expectations for the teaching team and stimulate future development
The courses vary, but a three-part introduction could include the following elements:
Part 1. Introduction
Lecture to introduce new learning assistants to the educational ambitions at the Department/MN-faculty. Activities to facilitate reflection on their own learning process, their role as learning assistants, the learning environment, and the benefits of active learning.
- How can learning assistants support student learning?
- What are the main responsibilities of a learning assistant?
- Should the learning assistant be an expert in the subject or a facilitator for learning?
- How does active learning support students to achieve the learning outcomes?
Part 2. Assignment
On their own, new learning assistants watch short videos and read an assigned texts. Learning assistants respond to the material by writing a short essay (300-500 words), read by the coordinator and distributed to the respective course leaders.
Videos: Læringsassistenter i aksjon (requires UiO login) for example videocase 6
Reading: How to ask the right questions? (pdf)
Part 3. Discussions
Group discussions to let learning assistants share their reflections and responses to videos and reading assignments. Discussion and practical examples of the most relevant type of activity in the respective courses (problem based learning, coding/programming, lab/field work etc.). If possible, include hands-on exercises and reflection.
- How does the learning environment, diversity, and power dynamics influence learning?
- What is special about the course where the learning assistants participate, how do students learn this knowledge, and how can learning assistants support this process?
- What to expect and how to contribute to a teaching team.