Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate students at Texas State who have completed a particular course and are returning to assist with instruction in the course. LAs are catalysts for increasing interactive engagement in a classroom because:
The LA's primary role is to facilitate student dialogue over difficult concepts.
LAs are beneficial in many ways to the department community. First, the experience of being an LA is of great benefit to the LA. The physics education research group at Texas State has studied these benefits, documented here. Second, the presence of LAs improves the quality of instruction for the students they serve. Third, LAs help faculty over time learn how to more effectively administer interactive engagement instruction.
The LA program also serves to recruit STEM majors into K-12 teaching careers for those who discover a deeper connection to the practices of teaching and learning.
Student applicants must have successfully completed at least one of PHYS 1430, 2425, or 2435. There is no minimum grade requirement, though academic performance is a consideration. Applications are solicited near the end of each semester, and decisions are made shortly thereafter. If selected, first time LAs will register for PHYS 3210, Physics Cognition and Pedagogy. LAs may serve for more than one semester. It is possible to serve three or four total semesters, depending on how effective the student is as an LA, their commitment to studying physics, and their interest in teaching as a profession.
LAs receive stipends for participating in the program. As of Fall 2016, to be an LA is not an employed position at the university; it is participation in a grant, which is paid as a stipend. The amount of this stipend is undetermined, as of May 2016. Students may also hold positions of employment in addition to being an LA. In particular, LAs are encouraged to apply to be employed as Laboratory Instructional Assistants.
LAs are supported with funding from the National Science Foundation, PhysTEC, and the Halliburton Foundation, as well as from the physics department, the College of Science and Engineering, and the Office of the Provost.