The LA model was initiated as a part of the STEM Colorado project headed by Richard McCray. The impetus behind the LA model was data that most students under perform in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects [1,2], that many of our teachers having neither a major nor minor in their field , and that large research universities are not producing adequate numbers of mathematics and science teacher .
The Learning Assistant model is based on the premise that teacher preparation begins with training in a specific STEM discipline. It then encourages students to consider a career in education through a modest stipend,first hand teaching experiences, and a specially designed education seminar course. Typically, LAs facilitate small group interactions in large-enrollment courses, and at the same time, they make up the pool from which we recruit new K-12 teachers.
The required Mathematics and Science Education Seminar aims to help LAs integrate content, pedagogy, and practice, and is taught by a faculty member from the School of Education and a K12 teacher. In this course students investigate relevant educational literature, and engage in in-depth discussions about their own teaching and learning. Seminar readings and discussions include topics such as discussion techniques, learning theory, cooperative learning, student epistemologies, metacognition and argumentation, self-explanations and tutoring, multiple intelligences and differentiated instruction, the nature of science and mathematics, national standards, teaching with technology, and qualities of an effective teacher.
Because the point of the LA model is to enhance the recruitment of well-trained students in the teaching profession, a student can continue as an LA only if s/he shows commitment to finding out more about teaching. The outcomes of the LA project at UC Boulder are currently being evaluated through research on improvements in discipline-specific and pedagogical content knowledge and the number of new teachers recruited and retained.