Learning Assistants (LAs) are College of Science undergraduates who participate in undergraduate instruction, course innovation, peer-to-peer tutoring and mentoring. LAs have unique opportunities to work closely with COS faculty and help their peers.
A Blog Post from one of our Learning Assistants:
"When I started as a Learning Assistant with Dr Bell in BIOL 213, I never would have thought I would not be helping Dr Dreyfus, GMU’s LA Program Director, optimize the same new LA seminar curriculum I took my first semester. I began in a group with three other LAs for the same course, which I know was indispensable to developing not only my content knowledge but my team-and relationship-building skills. Acting as a Learning Assistant, especially preparing my and my fellow LAs’ own materials while also utilizing the professor-provided review content, developed my critical thinking and communication skills as I worked to deliver content to various types of learners within the time constraints of office hours and review sessions. I started out very nervous when addressing students in the role of a peer educator rather than as a peer. I remember being unable to sleep the night before my first review session with one of the other LAs for the same sections of 213; I tossed and turned for hours, thinking about how it would go. I have never been a great (read: comfortable) public speaker, but I found the review session experience somehow so motivating. It was a rewarding excitement every time a student answered a question correctly, especially one requiring higher-order thinking or offered in a different way than they had previously been exposed to.
Being a Learning Assistant opened my eyes to the possibility of education as a career path for me. With my anxiety surrounding public speaking that really seemed to take a step back when I was reviewing content with students, I really started thinking more about teaching at the collegiate level. I don’t know if I would have realized I want to be a professor, researcher, and/or advisor so soon, had I not had the experience as an undergraduate Learning Assistant and instead had to wait to make this discovery until I started my PhD program. My suddenly ignited passion for teaching, and for encouraging students to go beyond simple regurgitation of their professor’s or LA’s exact words, was only furthered in the semester following. It was a great learning experience working with Dr Epstein for BIOL 103; despite both being in the Biology department, the course content and delivery was very different, as were the professors’ teaching styles. My third, and the current, semester is being spent working as the Learning Assistant for Learning Assistants, working to ensure all Learning Assistants are effective peer educators and that the experience is a positive and worthwhile one for all of them."
-Deanna, a sociology major, Class of 2021