Instructors in large Collaborative Learning Spaces use Learning Assistants (LAs) to assist with the learning tasks during class. Although it varies considerably depending on the course, the recommended number of Learning Assistants for a typical class in a large Collaborative Learning Space is a minimum of one Learning Assistant in class per 20-25 students.
Unlike the large number of readily-available resources that focus on evidence-based active teaching and learning strategies, the resources that address effective use of Learning Assistants in large classes are somewhat limited and tend to be STEM-centric, often emphasizing recruitment of K-12 STEM teachers. It is important to properly prepare LAs and to provide ongoing support and direction in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
Learning Assistant Interview
The candid interview with a preceptor for PSIO 431 Immunology, taught by Dr. Zohen Cohen, highlights some of the unique opportunities and challenges that Learning Assistants experience in the Collaborative Learning Spaces.
The University of Arizona Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology have well-established preceptor programs. Below please see some examples of the materials used in their programs:
The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab has a Teaching Teams Program that includes a Preceptor Professional Development Workshop. This workshop is designed to assist students with their preceptorships and to provide professional development in areas of critical thinking, public speaking, leadership and group dynamics:
- Teaching Teams Program (University of Arizona)
The University of Colorado has a Learning Assistants Program that began in the Physics Department and grew to include other departments as well:
- Learning Assistant Resources Site (University of Colorado)
- Learning Assistants in the Flipped Classroom
- Tips and Strategies for TAs and LAs
- Instructors Notes for First Joint TA/LA Meeting
The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton University provides some useful information about teaching with Learning Assistants: