USM’s Learning Assistant Program initially aimed to improve student success in courses with high rates of Ds, Fs, Ws, and Ls within STEM disciplines. The program has grown relatively quickly since its inception, expanding beyond STEM courses. Here is a brief history of the program’s evolution:
- 2014-2015: Two iterations of pilot programs began at USM: one in Chemistry and another in Physics.
- 2016-2017: In Fall 2016, a multidisciplinary team attended the Learning Assistant Conference at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the institution that created the model. While most institutions using the model focus primarily on STEM courses, the Learning Assistant program has been successful with other disciplines at institutions such as Boston University and Florida State. As indicated by both USM and University of Colorado outcomes data, the program has the potential to increase learning and performance among students in these courses, as well as increase student persistence towards graduation. The USM team wrote a proposal for University funding, presenting the model, data from the pilot programs, and research on the Learning Assistant model to USM administration in November 2016. In January 2017, the decision was made to incorporate funding for the proposal into the fiscal year 2018 budget, with the goal of successfully transforming courses and launching a Learning Assistant program for the fall 2017 semester.
- 2017-2018: USM officially launched the Learning Assistants program, with faculty from several departments across the university participating in the inaugural year.
By the end of its fourth year (summer 2021), USM’s LA program has become part of the academic culture of the institution, and an evidence-based practice for supporting student success. Here are some of the highlights of the program’s scope and impact:
- 32 faculty across 13 academic departments have incorporated the LA model into their courses. (Here is a comprehensive list of USM courses transformed to incorporate the LA model, including the contact information for the faculty.)
- 35 distinct courses have been transformed to incorporate the model.
- 4,135 students have taken a course that utilized LAs, with early program data indicating increases in academic performance and persistence.
- 177 USM students across 29 academic majors have served in an LA capacity.
Here is a downloadable description of the LA Program at USM, including testimonials from LAs, faculty, and students regarding their experiences with the LA model.