Learning Assistant Program
Undergraduate Learning Assistants (LAs) collaborate with instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) in College of Science courses to build interactive, collaborative classroom environments.
What is a Learning Assistant?
Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate peer facilitators who support student learning and evidence-based instructional practices. LAs are specifically trained to facilitate small-group student discussion and are focused on supporting students, rather than instructors. LAs are offered between 5-15 hrs/week depending upon the needs of the course they support.
LAs are compensated an amount based on $15.00 per hour.
- Participate as members of an instructional team in courses which actively engage learners
- Facilitate students in small-group discussion during class time
- Focus on supporting learners, rather than instructors (e.g.: LAs do not grade, but do plan questioning strategies to guide students through assignments)
- Meet with their instructional team (instructor, TAs, other LAs weekly)
- Receive training in pedagogical theory and strategy as students in SCI 5050 – The Science of Learning (1-credit hour)
Specific LA roles vary by course. Ideally, at least 50% of LAs’ hired time will be spent facilitating student learning during required class time. New LAs will also spend an hour each week in a pedagogy course (SCI 5050). Roles for LAs are subject to change. In 2022-2023, LAs fulfilled the following types of roles:
- Lecture (supporting students during lecture in breakout groups, Zoom chat, etc.)
- Lab (supporting students working on lab tasks in small groups)
- Discussion section (supporting students working in small groups; generally a required course component)
- Online facilitation (facilitating student interactions, such as on an online discussion board; generally an optional course component)
- Mentor hours (supporting students based on needs; offering technical support, directing students to resources, reaching out to unengaged students)
- Small group study (being available during a specified time for students to drop in for help; generally an optional course component and may include study hall, review session, etc.)
- Individual preparation (time spent outside of class to prepare for mentor hours, small group study, etc.)
- Grading (on a limited basis)
- Generally speaking, LAs need to have previously taken the course for which they serve as an LA (or they have completed an approved equivalent).
- Students may serve as an LA for a course that they have not previously taken IF they do not intend to take that course in the future, and IF the instructor grants approval.
- Students may NOT serve as an LA for a course that they are taking concurrently, even if there are different instructors involved.
- Summer LA positions are ONLY available to returning LAs. LAs must be matriculated (degree-seeking) U of U undergraduates, but they do NOT need to be enrolled in Summer courses. They DO need to be enrolled for the following fall semester.
- Fall/Spring LAs must be matriculated (degree-seeking) U of U undergraduates who are enrolled in courses (taking 3 credits or more).
- Post-baccalaureate students who are NOT enrolled in a graduate program may be considered for LA positions that receive relatively few applicants (e.g. some upper level courses), although currently matriculated/enrolled U of U undergraduates will receive priority consideration.
Questions? Please reach out to email@example.com
The Learning Assistant Program has closed applications for Fall 2023 courses. We anticipate our application for Spring 2024 opening in October 2023.
If you would like to be notified about future applications, click here to be placed on our email list!
We anticipate that we will be looking to for additional Learning Assistants in the following departments for Spring 2024 (subject to change):
- GEOLOGY & GEOPHYSICS
- SCIENCE RESEARCH INITIATIVE (SRI)
Fall and Spring LA positions are open to new and returning LAs. Summer positions are only open to returning LAs.
Before applying, please review program information and eligibility requirements.
Applicants should prepare the following information for their application:
- Contact information
- Major, GPA, anticipated graduation date
- Evidence of previous courses taken – DARS Report (find a video here about how to get a DARS report)
- A written explanation of your interest in being an LA (< 300 words)
- A written statement about your relevant experience (< 300 words)
- A written statement about your experience working with diverse audiences (< 300 words)
- Schedule availability, including your fall 2023 class schedule
- Commitment to enroll in the FREE, 1-credit hour pedagogy course: SCI 5050: The Science of Learning (only for new LAs)
- Commitment to complete program orientation (for all LAs)
Recommendations are OPTIONAL FOR ALL APPLICANTS. We strongly suggest that you give the faculty/instructor who is completing the form as much advance notice as possible. See below for additional information:
- Recommenders may be from the University of Utah, or any institution where you have been recently enrolled.
- Please note that recommendations are handled only via the recommendation form; NO SEPARATE RECOMMENDATION LETTERS ARE ACCEPTED.
- Recommendation submissions are due at the same time as applications.
- When asking a faculty member/instructor to complete a recommendation form, students should send the recommender a completed FERPA release form along with a link to the recommendation form.
Thank you for your interest in utilizing Learning Assistants! Please contact your Department Coordinator to find out if Learning Assistants make sense for your course and your goals:
- Biology – Reneé Dawson
- Chemistry – Michael Gruenwald
- Math – Matt Cecil
- Physics – Claudia DeGrandi
Learning Assistants are funded in partnership between each department, the College of Science, and the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME). Because funding for LAs is limited, LA placement prioritizes courses which employ active learning strategies and small-group discussion during required class time.
CU Boulder’s flagship Learning Assistant program is a useful resource for learning about program structures and impacts.
While LAs’ impacts on student experience and achievement are well-documented, LAs themselves benefit significantly from their work. LAs hone their understanding of foundational disciplinary concepts, which can lead to better performance in upper-division courses. LAs cultivate listening skills and bring information that they’re hearing from students back to their instructional teams where they practice advocating for targeted instructional supports. Instructional teams and SCI 5050: The Science of Learning offer opportunities to connect with peers, learn about on-campus resources, and build relationships. Perhaps most importantly, LAs learn about the complex psychology behind learning; by understanding ideas like Growth vs. Fixed Mindset, Imposter Phenomenon, and the structural inequities that can impact students’ varying mastery levels, LAs become comfortable participating in (and leading) productive, collaborative, discussion-based problem-solving.
The LA experience provides an opportunity for students to gain communication, facilitation, and leadership skills. Although LA responsibilities and expectations vary, all LAs will be compensated $15.00/hr and generally work between 5-15 hours per week.
In general, LAs can expect to:
- Be a part of the instructional team in courses which actively engage learners
- Facilitate students in small-group discussion during class time
- Focus on supporting learners, rather than instructors
- Meet with their instructional team (instructor, TAs, LAs) weekly
- Receive training in pedagogical theory and strategy as students in SCI 5050: The Science of Learning
Faculty members who are interested in having LAs in their classroom should reach out to their department coordinators or email Karie.Christopher@utah.edu.
The Learning Assistant program at the University of Utah started in 2017 and is based on the program model developed by University of Colorado Boulder. Additional information about the origins and impacts of the Learning Assistant model is available on the University of Colorado Boulder’s website.
Learning Assistant Testimonials
Learning Assistants have the ability to positively improve their peers' learning journeys in a multitude of ways. Not only do Learning Assistants have an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with instructors and their fellow students, but solidify their own understanding of the subject matter, learn the actual science behind learning in the 1-credit pedagogy course, SCI 5050: The Science of Learning, that all new LAs will complete, and gain confidence and leadership skills that will propel them in their own fields long after graduation.
We encourage anyone interested in becoming an LA to check out the testimonials of past and current Learning Assistants to read in their own words how the experience has affected their own educational experiences.
Karie Christopher, Education Director, Karie.Christopher@utah.edu
Kendall Van Horssen, Program Manager, Kendall.VanHorssen@utah.edu
Contact all LA Program staff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biology: Renee Dawson
Chemistry: Michael Gruenwald
Geology & Geophysics: Alan Rigby
Math: Matt Cecil
Physics & Astronomy: Claudia DeGrandi
SRI (Student Research Initiative): Josh Steffan