Peer Learning in STEM

The UGA Office of STEM Education is currently partnering with several departments across campus to develop Peer Learning Assistant models for implementation in select courses. This program aims to leverage the success of undergraduates who have completed the course in which they serve and wish to share their knowledge and abilities with their peers. Peer Learning Assistants provide valuable knowledge, insight, and learning strategies for the students they work with, while also furthering their own mastery of material they have already learned.

On Friday, February 17th, Dr. Valerie Otero visited from CU-Boulder to provide a presentation on using Learning Assistants and development of an LA-style program.

An archived recording of that session can be found here!


Biological Sciences

Building on success starting in fall 2016, Dr. Norris Armstrong continues the development of the PLA program in life sciences. Now in the third semester of the initiative, PLAs in life sciences serve sections of BIOL1107, BIOL1108, and BCMB3100. These classes are supported by more than 25 total PLAs, many of whom have previously served for at least one semester

Participating faculty: Armstrong, Dees, Dolan, Medlock, Miller, Pucko, Robinson, Sensibaugh


Chemistry

For more than 10 years, Dr. Charles Kutal has utilized Student Learning Assistants in his Honors Chemistry labs. Starting in spring 2017, PLAs began supporting lab sections for 1312H/1412. Beginning in fall 2017, PLAs will be supporting six sections of CHEM1210 in the Science Learning Center's SCALE-UP classrooms.

Participating faculty: Du, Ellenberger, Kutal, Pienta, West

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Computer Science

Dr. Bradley Barnes has been utilizing PLAs in CSCI 1301 since fall semester 2016. Initially implementing PLAs only in the SCALE-UP sections of 1301, Dr. Barnes has adapted his instructional approach to accommodate PLAs in both SCALE-UP and traditional leture classrooms. A highly competitive position, Dr. Barnes routinely recieves over 50 applications for only a handful of PLA positions.


College of Engineering

Also an OSE partner on the USG STEM Initiative, the College of Engineering is utiizing undergraduate learning assistants in many sections of ENGR 2120 (Statics). This model is simliar to the PLA model, though LAs in Engineering do not enroll in a pedagogy course.


Mathematics

Several intensive sections of MATH 2250 (Calc 1) began implementing PLA support in spring 2017. Starting in fall 2017, more sections will have PLA support, with a number of faculty participating in the program.

Particiapting faculty: Adams, Alli, Benim, Black, Iliev, LeBlanc


Physics and Astronomy

Starting spring semester 2017, certain sections of PHYS 1111 and 1112 began utilizing PLA support in the classroom. These classes are offered in large lecture halls, which can present unique challenges to the implementation of PLAs. Drs. Cooley, Dennis, and Galiautdinov continue to refine theie instructional approaches to maximize the effectiveness of PLA support.

Participating faculty: Cooley, Dennis, Galiautdinov, Wiegert


Pedagogy Training

In order to best prepare our Peer Learning Assistants, curricula and materials have developed to provide training in pedagogy, including strategies and techniques that can be used in mentoring environments. A long term goal will be to distill the content created into a scaleable training course able to serve all STEM disciplines.

  • BIOL 3910 - will continue to serve as the training course for PLAs in BIOL 1107 during spring semester 2017. Peer Learning Assistants will be receiving course credit for their participation. This course will feature face-to-face and online elements.

  • FCID 3100 - After being approved during fall semester 2016, this new 1-credit-hour course will serve as pedagogical training for PLAs from various disciplines. Two sections have begun for spring 2017, with nearly 40 PLAs enrolled across the two offerings. This course is discussion driven, and meets one hour each week. Currently enrolled are PLAs from Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics and Astronomy.

Resources

University of Colorado Learning Assistant Alliance - The University of Colorado-Boulder has been an early pioneer in the use of Learning Assistants in higher education. Their techniques have proven successful, and have influenced the plans in development at UGA. The University of Georgia is a member institution of the Learning Assistant Alliance, a network of institutions who are "sharing resources and information and experiences to further the objectives of transforming large-enrollment courses and recruiting future K-12 math, science and engineering teachers through the use of Learning Assistants." Visit learningassistantalliance.org to learn more. Faculty and staff can also create an account to access resources.

Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire - This instrument has been used in ENGR 2120 to measure factors contributing to student learning in college courses. Comprised of two sections, Motivation and Learning Strategies, this tool helps identify students' goals and strategies. Click Here for a manual on this instrument.

 

Current PLA Courses

The following courses plan to develop and implement Peer Learning Assistants into their classrooms by Spring 2018. Not all sections of each course will implent PLAs.


Learning Community

Representatives from participating STEM departments regularly meet to discuss plans and progress related to the Peer Learning Assistant program. Meeting notes are archived and available HERE.


Spotlight

Dr. Chuck Kutal, Professor of Chemistry, presents on his experience using PLAs at UGA during the 2016 USG STEM Summit in Macon. Watch the video below for a little bit of history as well as future plans for the use of PLAs.