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LA vs other models
How does a Learning Assistant (LA) differ from other peer-instruction models? 

Ways to utilize LAs:

  1. LAs should facilitate small group discussion around challenging questions and different types of tasks and problems within the discipline.
  2. Whether in a large lecture hall, a small recitation, or an online forum, LAs encourage students to share their ideas and reasoning and guide them toward thinking more deeply.
  3. LAs also learn about student successes and challenges and provide critical feedback to the instructor regarding student learning in the course.
  4. Using LAs requires contexts in which LAs can facilitate student learning
  5. LAs focus mainly on eliciting student thinking and helping each student participate in developing a shared understanding.
    1. Over 60% of the LA’s time should be with groups of students facilitating group learning rather than with individual students.


  • LAs must view their role as learning facilitators, interacting with students not simply confirming answers or giving the “right answer.”



V. Otero, S. Pollock, and N. Finkelstein, Am. J. Phys., 78, 11 (2010).

There are a handful of peer-instruction models that are on the campus (probably more than listed below):

  • TAs (Teaching Assistants) - Typically grad students. Often do grading, often teach on their own (courses, labs, recitations, etc.). They do not usually attend the course or class taught by the professor. A very common peer-instruction model in academia.
  • Academic tutors - Top students (undergrads) who recently took the course. Hired by tutoring centers or departments to offer general help sessions on various topics. They do not concurrently attend the classes they tutor for and generally help students with their out-of-class assignments and exam preparation. Students only benefit from this kind of tutoring if they seek it out. Also a very common model in higher education.
  • SI Leaders - (Supplemental Instruction) - SI Leaders are often described as "course-integrated tutors." They attend the course they are tutoring for, so they have a lot of context when it comes to helping those students.
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