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Abstract Title: LA Model Variation and Emulation: Toward a National Research Agenda?
Abstract: The Colorado Learning Assistant model has demonstrated effectiveness in improving learning gains, improving student attitudes, and in better preparing teachers to teach in K-12 schools, through CU Boulder studies. In this session, we explore the replication of such studies at other universities as well as the development of explanatory models for LA program effectiveness. Posters will present traditional measures of program effectiveness such as learning gains, attitudes, and DFW rates as well as how these measures play out with populations traditionally underrepresented in physics. Further, by in-depth case studies of LAs' experiences, their experiences in the pedagogy course, and their written and verbal reflections, we establish models of identity through participation that can help us understand why the program is effective and what it truly affects. Ultimately, by critically evaluating traditional measures of program effectiveness in light of explanatory models of LA program effectiveness, we seek to establish an agenda for future research on personal and social elements that are critical to the success of an LA-style program, or any program that capitalizes on the development of identity through participation.
Abstract Type: Poster Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Valerie Otero
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309
and Co-Presenter(s)
Kara E. Gray, University of Colorado - Boulder

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Valerie Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder
Moderator: Valerie Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder
Presentation 1 Title: Learning assistants in University Physics: Initial replication results and effect on underrepresented populations
Presentation 1 Authors: Paul M. Miller, Jeffrey S. Carver, Aniketa Shinde, Betsy Ratcliff, and Ashleyn N. Murphy
West Virginia University
Presentation 1 Abstract: During the 2011-2012 academic year, West Virginia University began a learning assistants (LA) program in its introductory calculus-based physics course targeted at increasing course effectiveness and recruiting future STEM teachers. The LA program was modeled after the Colorado Learning Assistant model. This poster describes the setting and initial results from the implementation including changes in learning gains (measured with the FMCE) and attitudes (measured with the CLASS). These data are combined with demographic data about the individual students and compared to baseline data collected during the spring semester of 2011. Particular attention is paid to whether the changes in the modified course have affected under-represented populations in physics any differently from the overall effect in the course.
Presentation 2 Title: A Framework for Assessing Learning Assistants' Reflective Writing Assignments
Presentation 2 Authors: Geraldine L. Cochran, David T. Brookes, Eric Brewe, and Laird H. Kramer
Florida International University
Presentation 2 Abstract: At Florida International University we have implemented a learning assistant program (LAP) based on the Colorado Learning Assistant Model.[1]   As a part of this program, students take a course on science and mathematics education theory and practice in which they are required to submit written reflections. The purpose of this study is to determine if students' writing assignments provide evidence that they are reflecting on their teaching experiences and to characterize the different ways in which they reflect on those experiences. In our investigation we adapted a rubric from Hatton and Smith[2]. We show how this rubric helps us to categorize the depth of student reflections and provide them with constructive feedback.
Presentation 3 Title: Understanding the Learning Assistant experience with Physics Identity
Presentation 3 Authors: Eleanor Close, Hunter Close, and David Donnelly
Texas State University-San Marcos
Presentation 3 Abstract: Learning Assistants (LAs) have been shown to have better conceptual understanding and more favorable beliefs about science than non-LAs, and are more likely to choose a career in K-12 science teaching (1). We propose that connections between elements of identity, persistence, and participation in an LA program can be explained using the concept of the community of practice and its intimate relationship to identity (2). In separate work, Hazari et al. found that physics identity was highly correlated to expressed career plans in physics (3). We hypothesize that a thriving LA program has many features of a well-functioning community of practice and contributes to all four elements of physics identity: personal interest, student performance, competence, and recognition by others. We explore how this analysis of the LA experience might shape decisions and influence outcomes of adoption and adaptations of the LA model.
[1] Otero, Pollock, & Finkelstein, Am. J. Phys. 78 (11), 1218-1224 (2010).
[2] Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).
[3] J. Res. Sci. Teach. 47 (8), 978-1003 (2010).
Presentation 4 Title: Impact of the Learning Assistant model on DFW rates in Introductory Physics Courses
Presentation 4 Authors: George Ortiz and Valerie Otero
University of Colorado at Boulder
Presentation 4 Abstract: The Colorado Learning Assistant (LA) model transforms large-enrollment undergraduate courses using talented undergraduate STEM majors to facilitate small-group interaction among enrolled students. The Colorado LA model has proven to be effective in increasing learning gains in LA-supported transformed courses and LAs themselves have been shown to outperform their peers in upper division courses. The LA model has also proven to be successful in recruiting talented physics majors to teaching careers and positively impacting their K-12 instruction. In this study we evaluate the impact of the LA model on the percentage of students who receive a final grade of D, final grade of F, or withdraw (DFW) from introductory physics courses at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Results will be reported and discussed.
Presentation 5 Title: Teaching to Learn: Exploring the Experiences of First-Time Learning Assistants
Presentation 5 Authors: Kara E. Gray and Valerie Otero
University of Colorado at Boulder
Presentation 5 Abstract: This paper explores, from the participants' perspective, the Colorado Learning Assistant program. Case studies of four first-time physics LAs are analyzed to understand the expansion and evolution of their views on good teaching, and their understanding of student learning. Findings suggest that through participating in teaching activities, LAs tend to move toward of view of teaching and learning focused on students' construction of physics content, and teaching strategies that are adapted to individual students.  We conclude that the repetition of thinking about how students learn, constructing interventions, and reflecting on the results of their actions leads LAs to converge on certain ways of behaving and talking that are more closely aligned with the goals of the LA program. We hypothesize that pedagogical concepts such as formative assessment and dialogic discourse made available through the pedagogy course assist greatly in students' convergence on desired practices.
Presentation 6 Title: When Former LAs Teach the LA Pedagogy Course: An insider's perspective
Presentation 6 Authors: Ian Her Many Horses and Valerie Otero
University of Colorado at Boulder
Presentation 6 Abstract: At the University of Colorado Boulder, the LA program has grown to the point that we now run 3 sections of the LA pedagogy course. This poster is presented by a former LA, now a doctoral student in Computer Science Education, who is now teaching and modifying the LA pedagogy course at CU Boulder. As one of the first LAs for the Applied Mathematics department, a unique perspective is brought to the LA pedagogy course which was initially designed by a physics education researcher and a high school physics teacher. Since the pedagogy course reaches diverse STEM student majors, the course must continually be made relevant for all students. Here we present a unique perspective from two angles: (1) from the angle of a computer science/math major teaching in what was a physics-centric LA pedagogy course and (2) the perspective of a former LA who is now taking action toward educational change. Finally, we discuss this final measure of success of the LA program that is rarely discussed in the literature: the recruitment of LAs into advanced doctoral programs in STEM education as they establish their agenda for educational change.