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What do RIT Program Learning Assistants Do?

Learning Assistants are undergraduates who are hired to support classroom transformation and enhance student success.  There are three main components (The three P's) to the LA experience:

  • Supporting student success and faculty pedagogy goals ("practice")
  • Preparing and planning for this support through weekly, 1 hour meetings with the faculty mentor ("prep")
  • Completing a 2-credit course in pedagogy which provides training in how to be an LA ("pedagogy")

Some examples and benefits of LA work include:

  • help tranform RIT courses by creating environments in which students can interact with one another, engage in collaborative problem solving, articulate and defend their ideas, and practice complex critical thinking skills
  • attend class and facilitate collaboration among learning teams by formatively assessing student understanding and asking guiding questions
  • collaborate with faculty in weekly preparatory meetings
  • carry out discipline-based education research and learn to analyze student data
  • gain experience and training in teaching as a possible career
  • achieve mastery of coursework by revisiting and teaching materials to others
  • be a member of the LA community and network

LAs are typically allotted up to 10 hours/week (150 hours maximum/semester), with specific hourly allotments indicated to each LA in their acceptance letter.  Being an LA is a paid position.  LAs receive an hourly wage set by the State of New York ($13.20/hour for Spring 2022).

Preparation with faculty mentors

Each week LAs meet with their faculty mentor for at least one hour.  In these prepatory meetings, LAs and the mentor discuss course content, class activities and pedagogies, student achievement of learning objectives, and more.  As LAs are a near-peer mentor to students in the class, LAs are often privy to the needs of students in a unique way.  Weekly prep meetings allow LAs to communicate the needs of students in the class to the mentor therby serving as a bridge between faculty and students.  The use of a meeting agenda helps organize ideas and tasks during these meetings.  See a sample prep meeting agenda here.

Training in Pedagogy

LAs from all departments are required to take a special 2-credit pedagogy course where they reflect on their own teaching and learning and make connections to relevant education literature.  This course is offered in both Fall and Spring semesters.  It must be taken concurrently with your first LA experience.  See course description below:

ITDS 359: STEM Education: Research and Practice (a.k.a. The Pedagogy Class)
Research and practice introduces students to the research, theories, and applications of disciplinary-based education research (DBER).  The course covers cognitive theories of learning (e.g. tranfer and representational models) and their application to the disciplinary context.  Classroom activities will include video examples of science learning environments, which students will analyze for level of engagement, analysis of a variety of conceptual and epistemological evaluations, and direct data analysis.  Independent and/or group projects will allow for deeper study within the student's chosen discipline [see below for more information on the course project].

If you are interested in learning more about the practice of teaching and being a learning assistant in the classroom, visit our Additional Resources Page.

The pedagogy course is taught by the program manager, Emily Mehlman.  Contact Emily with specific questions.

LAs from all departments are required to take a special 2-credit pedagogy course where they reflect on their own teaching and learning and make connections to relevant education literature. This course is offered both Fall and Spring semesters. It must be taken concurrently with your first LA experience. See course description below:

Project Description:

As part of successful completion of the pedagogy course, students will carry out a research project that connects pedagogy coursework to Learning Assistant work. Using the tools of formative assessment and the theories learned in class, the project will examine some aspect of teaching and learning in the classroom.  Through class discussions and work with the faculty mentor, LAs identify a problem or question of interest and craft a research project to examine that question throughout the semester.
 
Goals of the Research Project:

  • Learn more about yourself as a teacher and develop your teaching identity OR
  • Provide insights into how students learn the course content by identifying things that enhance or hinder student learning OR
  • Design instructional intervention that can help students work through their difficulties OR
  • Investigate student work to better understand learning and student ideas

In and out of class activities are included throughout the semester to support the completion of the project.  LAs collaborate with their faculty mentor throughout the term to address any shared questions the faculty and LA might generate.  This collaboration opens up opportunities for peer-reviewed discipline-based education research.  View examples of past Learning Assistant posters Here.