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The Influence of Learning Assistants on Faculty Use of Student-Centered Instruction

Journal of College Science Teaching—March/April 2024 (Volume 53, Issue 2)

By Cameron Hill, Kathryn Spilios, Anthony Barrasso

The Learning Assistant (LA) Program is a near-peer teaching model with three key components: 1) reevaluation of curriculum and lesson design to incorporate undergraduate LAs as a central part of the course, 2) a seminar attended by first-time LAs where they learn about education theory, and 3) weekly meetings where LAs and course instructors reflect on previous weeks and prepare for upcoming lessons. Thus, faculty instructors collaborate with undergraduate students who have introductory pedagogical knowledge to improve curricula. In this study, we surveyed faculty to understand how they characterize their conversations with their LA teaching partners and perceive the impact of LAs on their approach to teaching. We found that faculty discuss course content and pedagogy with their LAs and believe that LAs provide new viewpoints that inform their own teaching. Additionally, faculty believe working with LAs led to spending more class time on student-centered active learning activities. This provides new perspectives on the mutually beneficial nature of the LA-faculty relationship, including evidence that working with LAs confers professional development for faculty. Furthermore, we present a potential mechanism by which the LA model improves student outcomes by stimulating a shift toward evidence-based teaching methods.

Curriculum Leadership Teacher Preparation Teaching Strategies Postsecondary

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