The Learning Assistant (LA) model is a successful peer support model for increasing student learning gains, LA's content understanding, and recruitment of well-prepared K-12 science teachers. LAs are undergraduates who facilitate active learning in a classroom while simultaneously taking a course in pedagogy and working with the faculty instructor to implement transformation. This dissertation outlines three related studies to further inform us on the different ways LAs support student learning. I examined the actions that LAs undertake in the classrooms and the things they notice during their interactions with students.
In the first study, I used video observation and stimulated recall interviews with LAs to develop the Action Taxonomy for Learning Assistants (ATLAs). I used ATLAs to investigate the variation in LAs' actions within and among courses. The most common categories of actions were different forms of facilitation of student interaction. We found significant differences among LAs in different courses. However, we did not see significant differences in action codes between male and female, new and experienced, or traditional and non-traditional LAs.
In the second study, I used video observation and stimulated recall interviews to elucidate LAs' perceived roles and understand their noticing behaviors as they pertain to their Professional Visions. Professional Vision is the ability of professionals to see and understand the things of significance in any profession (Goodwin, 1994). The ways that LAs notice and interpret interactions with students is the form of Professional Vision on which I centered this research. I categorized LAs noticing behaviors into fifteen subthemes across three levels of sophistication. Through this analysis, I found that LAs have multifaceted and complex PVs and these PVs strongly related to their perceived roles.
In the third and final study, ATLAs codes, perceived roles, and noticing behaviors of LAs from an Organic Chemistry course were triangulated to look for disconnects between LAs beliefs and perceptions and observable actions. With few exceptions, the perceived roles, noticing behaviors and observable actions of the LAs did indeed align. While there were a few surprising disconnects, these could be explained by social desirability bias or certain actions being so common that they are not considered noteworthy.
Overall, this research demonstrated that LAs play many roles in the classroom including pedagogical facilitator, mentor, and affective support. Some of these roles were taught in the LA pedagogy course while others may have emerged from classroom norms and expectations and the LAs' desire to better help students. These findings could be used to improve upon LA training, implementation, and assessment. Information about LA actions and noticing could also inform LA and instructor professional development and increase the efficacy of the LA program.
In the concluding chapter of this dissertation, I recommend that future research focus on the roles and pedagogical techniques of LAs during office hours.
|Advisor:||Talbot, Robert M.|
|Commitee:||Hartley, Laurel, Hug, Sarah, Verma, Geeta, Wee, Bryan|
|School:||University of Colorado at Denver|
|Department:||Educational Studies and Research|
|School Location:||United States -- Colorado|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Noticing behaviors, Perceived roles, Professional visions|
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