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Transforming Undergraduate Science Education With Learning Assistants: Student Satisfaction in Large-Enrollment Course

Journal of College Science Teaching—May/June 2015

Large-enrollment undergraduate science courses are often seen as “gatekeepers” and tend to support less-than-ideal pedagogical approaches. Student satisfaction with teaching and learning and gains in student conceptual understanding in these courses is often limited at best. At University of Colorado Denver, the Learning Assistant (LA) Program supports the transformation of these large-enrollment science courses to include more interactive teaching strategies and learning opportunities. We find that students in these LA-supported courses are satisfied with these courses in part because of their use of LAs, primarily during the lecture meeting time. Students do not report using LA support as much outside of course lecture meetings. Further, students in an LA-supported General Biology course also exhibited much larger gains in conceptual understanding. We suggest that future work should investigate cross-group comparisons of cognitive and affective gains by factors such as ethnicity; class; gender; and interactions among students, LAs, and faculty.
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