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CSU Sacramento Learning Assistant Program


Sacramento State’s Learning Assistant (LA) program is based on University of Colorado-Boulder’s internationally renowned program. Our goal is to turn STEM students on to the excitement of teaching, which will increase the desperately short supply of highly qualified K-12 science teachers.  The learning assistant role is to facilitate discussion, helping to transform the instructor-centered environment typical of  large-enrollment classes into a more interactive, collaborative, and engaging one. LAs receive training directly from the class instructor, and also participate in a weekly pedagogy course.

In Fall 2014 the program will likely include biology (BIO 1 and BIO 2), geography (GEOG 1), and physics (PHYS 11A) courses. Students interested in working in high school classrooms are also welcome to apply and may earn upper division units.

The mandatory pedagogy course will meet on Fridays from 1-2:50 pm.

We will hold an information meeting (flyer) for prospective Learning Assistants and faculty interested in learning more about the program on Friday May 2 in Del Norte 1010 from 1-3pm. Feel free to stop by even if you can't stay for the entire time. Please take a moment to RSVP here so we have an estimate on how many people to expect.

Ready to become a Fall 2014 Learning Assistant? Fill out an application . Students who apply by Friday May 30 will receive priority. If you fill out an application and your plans change please let us know as soon as possible so another student can be hired. Notify us by sending an email to prof. Margoniner or to prof. McDonald.  
The LA program ran at Sacramento State for the first time in Fall 2011. Five LAs worked with about 80 students enrolled in an Introduction to Astrobiology (ASTR 4C) class. Students and LAs worked collaboratively on projects that were presented during our end of semester celebration.

The program was a smashing success and both LAs and students loved the experience! Here are the LA answers as to whether they would like to repeat the experience:

LA 1: Absolutely! I loved every minute of working with the students, helping them develop their strategy, and experiencing the final products.

LA 2: Yes I would like to work as an LA in the future. Not only was it a pleasure to work with Dr. Margoniner and the other learning assistants, but the experience was valuable and teaching what I have learned from previous semesters helped me to retain the material.

LA 3: I would love to work as an LA in the future. I had a lot of fun doing this project, and I would like to see what improvements we can make to it in the future.

LA 4: Yes, LA position was not just a job opportunity for me. I learnt so many things as LA. How to deal with different people, punctuality, and communication skills, and learn more about Science. I Love this position because I know that every day I am going to help students and at the same time I gain so much of knowledge from students too. My goal Is to become one of the best LA's of our group and make this program a success.

LA 5: I'd like to continue to be a LA in the future because enjoy the project based learning. Using the system gets students self-motivated to learn about physics, it makes things more enjoyable and even more fun to work with students who really want to learn.

The entire Fall 2011 experience is documented in detail (with pictures and links to the projects) here: http://webpages.csus.edu/~vemargon/LA/
In Spring 2012 we expanded the program to two classes:
Physics in Our World (PHYS 10) and Introduction to Astronomy (ASTR 4B). Funds from the CSU Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI, http://www.calstate.edu/teachered/msti) were used to help support 8 LAs.

In Fall 2012, Spring 2013, and Fall 2013 the program was expanded to include biology students who wanted to explore a career in K-12 STEM teaching. LA programs ran in PHYS 11A and BIO 2 (Cells, Molecules, Genes).

In Spring 2014 the program expanded once again to include BIO 1 and GEOG 1. This expansion was partially due to a Promising Course Redesign grant from the Chancellor's Office. An e-portfolio documenting the experience is currently under development and we welcome your feedback on it.

Spring 2014 LA Supported Classes
 Course     Meeting time and place Faculty
 BIO 1    TR 7:30-8:45am, MND 1003 Prof. Stacie Hooper
 BIO 2MW 4:30-5:45pm, DLN 1010 Prof. Kelly McDonald
 BIO 2           TR 9-10:15am, SQU 338  Prof. Heather Brown
 GEOG 1   TR 1:30-2:45pm, SQU 316 Prof. Mathew Schmidtlein
 PHYS 11AMWF 11-11:50am, MND 1015 Prof. Jerome Buerki
 PHYS 11ATuThF noon-12:50pm, MND 1015 Prof. Margoniner