The General Program Elements

As the Learning Assistant model has grown and new LA programs have been started all over the world, it has become clear that consistent, informative definitions of what makes up a Learning Assistant program were needed. These are called General Program Elements (GPEs). On this page, you'll find all the GPEs that every LA program uses. If you wish to inform others of your LA program, whether it is through your website, papers, posters, or presentations, we ask that you plase use the GPE definitions found on this site.


1. What is a Learning Assistant Program?

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A Learning Assistant Program supports Learning Assistants, faculty, and students by transforming courses so that they are more closely aligned with research-based instructional strategies.

2. Who are Learning Assistants?

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Learning Assistants are undergraduate students who, through the guidance of weekly preparation sessions and a pedagogy course, facilitate discussions among groups of students in a variety of classroom settings that encourage active engagement.

3. What are the goals of an LA Program?

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Every LA Program incorporates four major goals of varying emphasis: curriculum & course transformation, K-12 teacher recruitment and preparation, institutional change, and discipline-based education research.

a. Curriculum & course transformation

The LA Model supports course transformation into active student learning.

b. Discipline-based education research

The LA Model introduces and supports conversations between math and science research faculty about education research and its role in creating effective learning spaces.

c. Institutional change

The LA model acts as a change agent in faculty, departments, and institutional practices by providing infrastructure to support and reward instructional innovation.

d. Teacher recruitment & preparation

The LA model is an effective method of recruitment and preparation for future K-12 teachers. It can both provide exposure and generate interest to undergraduates who had never thought of teaching as a career before and help those who are on the fence decide if teaching is right for them. Meanwhile, the LA program emphasizes “best practices” and provides diverse student support which are helpful for students at any level.

4. What is an LA’s experience?

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Learning Assistants engage in three main activities. They interact with groups of students, engage with faculty members in weekly preparation meetings, and participate in the pedagogy course specifically designed for new LAs.

a. Interaction with groups of students

Learning Assistants interact with students by facilitating discussions about conceptual problems within the discipline. LAs focus mainly on eliciting student thinking and helping each student participate in developing a shared understanding.

b. Weekly prep meetings

LAs meet with their coordinators and/or faculty as a team at least once per week to prepare for future classes, develop deeper content understanding, and exchange information about how students are progressing in the course.

c. Pedagogy course

The pedagogy course introduces LAs to educational research, active learning, and strategies that support:

(1) eliciting student ideas and helping all group members become active and engaged in the class.
(2) listening and questioning;
(3) building relationships; and
(4) integrating learning theories with effective practices.

i. Weekly teaching reflections

Weekly teaching reflections are used in the pedagogy course to help LAs critically examine how education research and strategies play out in their interactions with students.

ii. Requirement for new LAs

The LA pedagogy course is required for all new LAs, who often take it concurrently with their other LA responsibilities to allow for real time reflection of practice.

5. What is a faculty member’s experience?

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Faculty members engage in four main tasks:

(1) building a safe environment for student interaction;
(2) using materials that facilitate active engagement;
(3) running weekly prep meetings with their LAs; and
(4) learning about using LAs effectively in their learning environments.

In addition, faculty are encouraged to participate in community events, such as poster sessions. Many faculty also engage in assessment of their students’ learning and research in other course transformation outcomes.

6. What are transformed courses?

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A transformed course supported by LAs involves active learning and opportunities for groups of students to work toward a learning goal and for instructors to make instructional decisions based on student ideas.

a. Use LAs to promote interaction and collaboration among students

It is the job of every LA to facilitate group discussions by promoting supportive spaces that encourage interaction and collaboration among students. By including LAs who are trained with applying various pedagogical topics in the math or science classroom, more students can have their thinking challenged in order to develop a deeper understanding of the content.

b. Communication with other faculty

Using LAs in the classroom generally helps generate discussion among faculty. Whether the goal is to attract faculty to using LAs in their class or to share ideas and strategies of using LAs effectively, communication is important for every LA program.

c. Evaluating learning outcomes

All faculty using LAs are encouraged to evaluate their students’ learning outcomes, whether they are in-class assessments or standardized concept inventories or attitudinal surveys through the LA Supported Student Outcomes system.

7. What is assessment?

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a. Course Assessment

Course assessment is the process of collecting data that can be compared across time or location to inform the effectiveness of teaching practices in meeting the goals of the course.

` b. Program Assessment

Your assessment may also be broader than individual courses and look at LA identity, or assess how the LA program might create more active learning environments in your program, or how the Model affects retention and DFW rates.

8. What is the LA Model and how does it differ from an LA Program?

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The LA Model is the embodiment of these General Program Elements (GPEs). An LA program is an instantiation of the LA Model that includes all GPEs, but the usage of the GPEs may differ and an LA program may include other elements specific to the institution, the department, or even the course that LAs will be used.

9. What is the Learning Assistant Alliance?

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The Learning Assistant Alliance is a community made up of people from institutions who share resources and experiences to transform courses within their disciplines and recruit future K-12 math, science and engineering teachers through the use of Learning Assistants.

10. What is the Learning Assistant Alliance Leadership Council?

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The Learning Assistant Alliance (LAA) Leadership Council (LC) is the governing body of the Learning Assistant Alliance, working closely with the University of Colorado, to serve the larger LAA membership on matters affecting the entire organization. It began its service on August 15th, 2017 and consists of two student members and seven non student members who represent LA faculty, researchers, program directors, and students from diverse institutions.