Camarillo, Calif., April 23, 2012 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) has launched a new program that offers aspiring teachers a chance to develop their skills while making large-enrollment math and science courses more intimate and interactive.

The Learning Assistant (LA) Program, modeled on a nationally acclaimed program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, launched at CI this spring.  The program pairs math and biology instructors with talented math and biology students in a collaborative teaching effort.

“The LA Program gives our most promising math and science students a flavor for what it’s like to be a teacher and, hopefully, encourages them to continue on that path,” said Dr. Jeanne Grier, Professor of Secondary Education and Director of the CI Math and Science Teacher Initiative, who introduced the LA program on campus.  “It also provides instructors with an added resource for engaging students – a fellow student who has a strong grasp of math or science and who can share their knowledge with peers in a very approachable way.”

The LA gains experience and confidence as a teacher by observing and participating as a supplemental instructor in classes, labs and seminars.  The LA also gets a unique opportunity to be mentored by a seasoned math or science instructor. 
Maria Boroi, a junior math major serving as an LA for a precalculus course taught by Lecturer Anna Tivy, said the experience has been invaluable.

“This experience allowed me to interactively learn both from the students and the instructor,” Boroi said.  “By attending the class, I got an excellent review of precalculus, which helped me in my higher level math classes. Getting the chance to observe the teaching technique of the instructor helped me to become a better tutor and future teacher.  Being able to teach during the class, I gained a sense of authority and control over the class which I must have as a teacher.”

The LA supports instructors in a variety of ways, including facilitating student interaction, assisting students in small groups, grading material, creating lesson plans, preparing partial lectures, presenting lab topics, posing mathematical problems, producing video and online content, and encouraging student discussion and debate.  The LA’s time commitment ranges from 5 to 15 hours a week.  They are paid by the hour.

Biology Lecturer Dr. Angela Chapman says LAs have made a “huge impact” on lab sections for her Biology 170 Foundations of Life Science course.

“They are undoubtedly making a difference,” said Chapman.  “My lab students benefit enormously by having another student (the LA) in the lab to interact with.  Student learning is much more efficient.  Having an LA not only helps with the curriculum delivery but improves the instructor/student ratio with regard to lab safety.”

The pilot spring semester paired six LAs with four instructors.  Biology majors Lauren Boross, Lyndsie Chipres, Megan Crask and Cameron DeMaranville are working with Dr. Angela Chapman and Dr. Bryan Swig in their laboratory classes.  Math majors Maria Baroi and Ryan DeMoss are working with math instructors Anna Tivy and Jarmila Nguyen.

In addition to participating in lectures and labs, the students meet weekly with the instructors and fellow LAs for mentoring and to share feedback.  They also perform research, grade tests and labs, and work on lesson planning.  The semester culminates in a final presentation on May 1, in which the students share what they’ve learned as LAs. 

“This program is amazing,” said Math Lecturer Jarmila Nguyen, who works with an LA in her Business Calculus course.  “We need great math teachers at all levels of the educational system.  This is a way to find them, develop passion for mathematics, and encourage them to devote their life to teaching.”

The LA Program at CI is a project of the Math and Science Teacher Initiative funded by the CSU Chancellor’s Office.  For more information, contact Dr. Jeanne Grier, Professor of Secondary Education and Director of the CI Math and Science Teacher Initiative, at 805-437-8987 or jeanne.grier@csuci.edu.

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.