“To look at the work of your peers, and learn how to explain with kindness and precision, the nature of their mistakes is, in fact, how you learn to diagnose your own work.” ― Steve Almond
Analytical Trigonometry (MAC 1114)
“I asked to be assigned Learning Assistants for my online courses because I knew they could help me create a rich learning experience for my students. My students work in zoom breakout rooms with 4-6 students on an activity that helps students dig deeper into the subject matter. The LAs facilitate this by encouraging student participation and collaboration and by helping them find direction when the students get stuck. As an undergraduate student I assisted a professor as a “math proctor”. That job led me to want to become a math teacher. Even if an LA does not become a teacher, the experience of helping and encouraging others is preparation for many types of careers the LAs may pursue. I believe this program is beneficial for students, for LAs, and for the teacher!“
Sophia Claymore (LA) Group Session
Brittany Kraft Ph.D.
Biology II (BSC 2011)
An interview with Dr. Brittany Kraft (Biology)
Why did you join the LA program?
To better connect with my students in my large lecture courses. I want my students to experience more personalized and student-centered education, even when there are 300 other students in the room.
Why do you continue in the program?
CAT has the most amazing directors. They have helped me in all aspects of my teaching. They are so organized, responsive, kind and supportive. My LA’s have also been excellent. These students are kind and professional, and have wonderful ideas for ways to engage students. It’s been easy to continue with the program, and now I can’t imagine my BSC2011 lecture course without their help.
What are your perceptions of your LAs?
I am the kind of teacher that is constantly reevaluating my students’ learning experiences, and always trying to improve. My LA’s do a fantastic job of being flexible and open-minded. They’re willing to try new things, and to give me feedback if these ideas don’t work (or do!). The LA’s love working with other students, and I can tell they feel a lot of joy and pride from the experience.
Name something about student outcomes since you started using LA’s.
I don’t have any quantifiable data since I have used LA’s since I began teaching 200+ sections of BSC2011. But I can say that students have told me on their evaluations that they find the LA’s to be very helpful and available. The LA’s provide another point of contact for my students and new perspectives that I might not have considered. I am grateful for their help!
Daniel Zuniga (LA) Office Hours
Letter from LA Paige Rhein
Hello Dr. Rahming
I hope all is well. I know this is a busy time, but I wanted to quickly send an email about the LA program and my experience these past few years. It is becoming surreal that next semester will be my last semester as an LA. Beginning fall 2019, I have had the pleasure of working each semester and the skills and confidence I have gained from it I will use in all future endeavors. My ability to speak and present in front of large crowds, the way I carry myself, and the confidence I bring are all noticeable skills curated throughout this program. With working multiple jobs through “zoom university” and the pandemic, my role of an LA became increasingly important and I was excited to step up to the challenge. I was challenged to find alternative approaches to explaining material and working practice problems through a computer screen. Remote learning has been hard on many, and hopefully now the students who came to FSU during the pandemic are seeing the benefits of LAs in a live classroom setting.
Another rewarding experience I have had through the program are seeing my former students enroll in the upper division courses I teach. Notably, in fall 2019 and spring 2020 I LA’d for CHM1045, and then this past spring, summer, and current fall (2021) I have LA’d for BCH4053. In each biochemistry course I have taught there have been students from general chemistry who have made it through and are now in their final stem centered course. Many have come back to me thanking me for their experience in general chemistry. My role goes past “holding office hours” to these students. My role as a mentor is the most rewarding as many have reported the study, note-taking, and time management skills gained throughout the years were piloted in their first few classes as freshman with learning assistants.
On another note, post graduation I have decided to attend pharmacy school. I have received acceptances from the [top five university], and [another top rated university]. I am interviewing with the [#5 university] on Friday and [#1 university] later this month, which are ranked 5th and 1st in the nation respectively. In both of my interviews I have already taken part of, they have specifically asked for clarification about the LA program and my role. After describing the job and what I have learned from it they both have been extremely receptive to the program and its aims. I was sent to a breakout room with the dean of [top five university] who then again asked me follow up questions and expressed interest in working to implement something similar for the undergraduate students at their university.
As I prepare for graduation, I have reflected on what this program has done for me and how it has shaped me as an individual. With one semester left, I am exceedingly confident that the person I will be walking away from this program will be more than ready to succeed in the “real world”.
All the best,
Kassie Ernst, Ph.D.
First Year Engineering Lab
- Learning Assistants (LA) are a huge help in my First-Year Engineering Lab classes. Engineering is such a broad field, and LAs always are able to speak to what they are currently working on in their discipline and skill set. They really help students grasp the realities of college in a way that I cannot.
- For example, this past semester I taught a time management skill that none of the students had heard of. It was incredibly helpful to have my LA there to tell them that they implemented this same skill into their daily work routine and it helps them organize their time so much.
- So many of my students want to work with robots or in the medical field, and that is not where my expertise lies. I often look to my LAs to talk about what their class experiences are like in these fields and that is just an incredibly valuable contribution that they make to the class.
- LAs are essential for any type of group work that happens in my classes. They are great at distilling the main points of the project and helping to break things down. My classes emphasize a lot of collaboration, so LAs are encouraged to share any ideas or feedback they may have and that can really help a group that is stuck and looking for some helpful feedback.
- LAs are also great at reporting back things that are going on in the classroom that might be hard for me to see or understand without their perspective. I have been teaching hybrid classes and it is all I can do to keep up with making sure everyone is getting the information they need. LAs are great at picking up on what needs to be explained better or reviewed.
- I joined the LA program because I’m working on making the classes I teach more active learning environments and LAs are taught about those principles and know how to foster an environment that promotes active learning. I also teach a lot of first-year students who are really looking for the perspective of a more advanced undergraduate and LAs provide that for them.
- The LAs, and the program in general, continues to impress me and help me achieve my classroom goals. I get to work on and troubleshoot ideas during our CAT LA meetings and it always helps to hear what others are doing. I’m also continually impressed with how willing and able LAs are at engaging students with where they are at.
- LAs are way more adept that I am in understanding the context of being an undergraduate student because they are students themselves.
I love having the LAs, and they are helping with coming up with the activities. I’ve said it many times, but having LAs truly transformed my teaching. This morning driving in, I was thinking about how they make the class very scalable. With enough LAs, even a larger class wouldn’t feel like too much burden nor would it be a reduction in quality. I really think that LAs are the way we can accommodate big classes without having to resort to online, which having done it, was awful. What’s more, having the LAs made me rethink how to structure class with having activities. Walking around the class during activity time is my favorite part of class. I can get real-time feedback on what they understand and what they struggle with. It’s so much better than clicker questions because you can ask the students questions and figure out why they might not be understanding a particular concept.
Penelope Kirby, Ph.D.
Calculus I (MAC 2311)
During the 2017-2018 academic year I was invited to participate in several statewide meetings that revolved around improving student retention and persistence in STEM. To improve the student retention of underrepresented groups in Calculus 1, I began re-working how I taught the course. I was offered the use of LAs to help in this initiative. The re-design of the Calculus course relies on the use of LAs to make several of the activities reasonable for an instructor to do. There were clear positive results of the re-design of the course and I have continued to use LAs since then.
One outcome was that my passing rate for women was clearly and significantly improved the first year that I re-worked the course. LAs contributed to helping women persist in the course rather than dropping out.
Most of my LAs have been eager to do this job of helping out other undergraduate students and most learned pretty quickly how to do a good job. A few of the LAs started off with the idea that the job was a resume builder or discovered working with other students is a lot harder than they expected, but most of those LAs ended up revising their thoughts about why and how to be an LA by the second semester.
I actually think the LAs get more out of the experience than the students taking the class! The LA experience is a great way to empower the students that are part of the program. It is enjoyable to see the growth of the LAs from a just-finished-calc students to a graduating senior. Each LAs that I have worked with have developed into strong, confident people.
Leah Hollingsworth Ph.D.
College Algebra (MAC 1105)
“My goal in joining the LA program was to provide additional resources to incoming freshmen who might struggle with adjusting to the demands of a college-level math course. The LA program has been one of the best decisions I’ve made as an instructor. For those students that engage and participate with the LAs, their success is a testimony to the work and effort the LAs put into their positions. The LAs provide me with valuable information about how students are doing and what they are struggling with. They serve as extensions of me inside and outside of the classroom and I’m incredibly appreciative of all they do to ensure students are successful in the course.“
Stephanie Dillon, Ph.D.
General Chemistry (CHM 1045/6)
I started working with the LA program as a mechanism to better serve the students in my courses. I had been looking at how to restructure the courses to involve more active learning and determined that a "flipped classroom" style of course structure would be the most beneficial. In order for this style of course structure to work, you have to have good support for the students in place to help them while they are completing the in-classroom homework and activities. The LA program provided the means by which to provide that good support. After the success of the first semester, it became clear to me that the flipped orientation was the best way to help the students and the LAs are essential to the success of this format of course. My LAs are not only needed in the classroom but they also provide numerous office hours and help sessions to the students. They voluntarily offer exam reviews and extra practice sessions. They act as cheerleaders and counselors to the students that need help and encouragement. They are VITAL to the OVERALL success of the course. As I said from the start, the reorganization of the course structure was to better serve the students in my courses. It was additionally to combat some negative trends that had been observed over the past decade, namely lower test scores, high attrition rates and low retention of course material based on subsequent class feedback. I was very happy to see that with the new curricular format that the attrition in my course fell by almost 10% and the exam scores increased dramatically. Students were no longer passing based on "easy" homework and quiz and extra credit points but actually achieving A and B averages on their exams. This success would not be possible without the assistance of the LA program.