New Student Learning Assistant Program
We are excited about the Student Learning Assistant Program that started in the department last year! The program creates space for students to gain confidence, enhance their study skills, and practice course material. It is funded through a grant from the WSU Office of the Provost to support instructors and students in large lecture courses. Learning assistants provide additional support to students in the following courses: Basic Mathematics, Pre-Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus I.
Professors William Hall and Kari DeBower redesigned the structure of Math 100 – Basic Mathematics and Math 103 – Pre-Algebra to provide more student support through the use of undergraduate learning assistants, and to better prepare these students for future courses. The structure for Pre-Algebra required qualifying students to take Math 100 as a co-requisite with Math 103. The objective for students taking these courses as co-requisites is to provide them with prerequisite material “just-in-time” for the upcoming material in their Pre-Algebra course. The student learning assistants provide help in and outside of the classroom, and attend the Basic Mathematics course regularly to assist students working on course material and in-class activities. Student learning assistants are available at the Math Learning Center and may also be assigned to students to offer individual support.
Professor Hall and graduate student Serena Peterson worked closely to develop a co-requisite course for qualifying students taking Calculus I. Students in the course met weekly with an instructor and student learning assistants. The goals included strengthening study skills, reviewing pre-requisite material, and providing study time for Calculus I. Students were expected to write reflections on their understanding of the material.
The student learning assistants were eager to provide their peers with an understanding attitude and support. They were able to network with other students and improve their own knowledge, confidence, and social and communication skills.
Students have responded in a positive way regarding learning assistants. One algebra student stated, “It is nice to have multiple perspectives for the same problem and very helpful to have more than one person explain the problem. There are more opportunities for help in class, and the wait is not that long with learning assistants and the instructor circulating the classroom.”
By taking courses such as Math 100 and 103 together, this shortens the number of semesters STEM majors will be taking math classes and allows them to more quickly finish math prerequisites for their fields of study. This shortening of course sequences has been shown to increase performance and decrease dropout rates.(next article)