2017-2018 Mini-grant Project

Our initiative is similar to the Learning Assistant (LA) initiative at the University of Colorado in Boulder (1). LAs are strong students from previous semesters whose role is to assist learning during class time. The LA program in Colorado was first developed to assist science faculty in making their large-enrollment courses more student-centered, interactive, and collaborative. These types of course transformations have been shown to significantly improve the educational experience for students (2, 3), but can be difficult to implement in large classes, which is where the LAs come into the picture.

Our project is different from the Colorado LA …

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Our initiative is similar to the Learning Assistant (LA) initiative at the University of Colorado in Boulder (1). LAs are strong students from previous semesters whose role is to assist learning during class time. The LA program in Colorado was first developed to assist science faculty in making their large-enrollment courses more student-centered, interactive, and collaborative. These types of course transformations have been shown to significantly improve the educational experience for students (2, 3), but can be difficult to implement in large classes, which is where the LAs come into the picture.

Our project is different from the Colorado LA project in that we are focusing on classes with identified academic difficulties. At John Abbott College, Winter semester Physics NYA classes suffer from poor performance on final exams: the average on the NYA final exam in Winter 2017 was 53%. This was a repeat of the Fall 2010 exam when the average was 64%. These cohorts also suffer from significantly lower than average pass rates: 75% in Winter 2017 compared to the college network pass rate of 85%. Active learning activities can be difficult to manage in a class of 40 strong students and the difficulties are even more numerous in a class of 40 struggling students.

We plan to give our Winter 2018 NYA students a final exam that has been given in past years to both low-performing Winter cohorts and high-performing Fall cohorts to measure the effect of LAs and increased active learning.

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Updates and Project Proposal

Resources Produced

Learning Assistants in the Physics Classroom

SALTISE Conference Presentation 2018

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Project Leader