Learning Assistant banner with photo of students working on homework. Text says OSU Pysics Learning Assistants. Leadership. Growth. Community

 Did you know that graduate and medical schools increasingly value student teaching experiences


How is the LA Model Different?


Tradtional vs. LA Model

In a traditional lecture the instructor disseminates information one way.
With the LA model the instructors and LAs moderate small group work.

What do physics LAs do?

In order for a class to function well it must have community. If the instructor is the mayor, the LAs are the community outreach. They are often the first line of support to students. LA's help facilitate many aspects of the learning process, including but not limited to:

  • Attend class and help students working in groups on problem solving.
  • Hold study sessions and/or help out in the WormHole support desk.
  • Curate the class Slack channel by fielding questions from students and posting helpful information.
  • Make Open Educational Resources like LightBoard videos.

 LAs are trained in content and best teaching practices during weekly pedagogy meetings with the instructors. People typically spend between 4 - 8 hours a week being an LA.

Pillars of LA Experience 

LAs must be trained in STEM learning best practices along with weekly content prep sessions.
They use their training to facilitate student learning in a number of ways.



How does this help the LAs?

  • LA's gain valuable teaching experience by engaging in the process.
  • The develop communication and leadership skills.
  • The experience is almost universally transformative as they gain deeper meaning behind how we learn and how we support people learning.
  • Many LAs are able quit jobs that are less focused on building career skills.
  • Helping people has an intrinsically strong emotional reward.
  • LAs also learn physics at a deeper level. See A physics department’s role in preparing physics teachers: The Colorado Learning Assistant model

 Chart showing LAs achieving high gains on an Electricity and Magnetism assessment

The chart above shows a cohorts of students' pre and post test scores for a standardized E&M assessment.
Note how the LAs not only start with a high score but also show incredible gains.



How do LAs help others?

  • LAs often have more intimate knowledge of the class than the TAs and are seen as more approachable than instructors.
  • They are just as much emotional and procedural support as they are support for solving physics questions.
  • Before LAs supported our classes, it's hard to imagine how many questions got unanswered.
  • LAs improve Student Evaluations of Teaching as shown in the figure below.  

Student evaluation of teaching scores from 2013 to 2018 

* Figure courteous of PH20x instructor KC Walsh
Notice the SET score fluctuate, increasing slightly before LAs supported the class.
Afterward the variance smooths out and the trend is more positive.



How to apply?

Applicants are recruited from the current cohort of students for the following year/term. For PH20x recruiting occurs during spring term. For PH21x the recruiting is ongoing as there is a sequence starting every term. Recruiting occurs during lecture along with a formal invite to apply sent via a Canvas course announcement. We do hire outside of students currently enrolled. For more information about applying contact one of your physics instructors or the Introductory Physics LA Program Director, KC Walsh (walshke@oregonstate.edu).


 Click HERE to learn more about the Oregon State University LA program as a whole

Click HERE to learn more about the National Learning Assistance Alliance