Learning Assistant Program

In addition to a one hour a week seminar focusing on specific teaching strategies, students will assist the class Teaching Assistant (TA) in introductory Biology, Calculus, Chemistry or Physics courses, helping to facilitate group discussions. A great course for those hoping to teach at the high school or college level and those wanting undergraduate experience in teaching.

Students in a chemistry classroom.

General Catalog: Taken as a 186 in Geology (GEL). Contact mast@ucdavis.edu for CRN.
Units: 1 plus one additional unit through collaborative department
Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor required.
Grading: letter grade
GE credit: none
When Offered: Fall, Winter, Spring

Lecturer: Mary-Betty Stevenson
Class size: 1 section of about 30 students
Lecture/Discussion: 1 hour weekly
Internship: Approximately 3 hours per week. Introductory Math/Science courses at UC Davis.

Become a Learning Assistant at UC Davis

What is the UC Davis CalTeach/MAST Learning Assistant (LA) Program?
The Learning Assistant (LA) Program was initiated by the CalTeach/MAST program with the following goals in mind:

  • enhance the learning experience of undergraduate students
  • build a sense of community among STEM undergraduate students
  • create a supportive learning environment particularly for those from underrepresented groups.

Undergraduate students will work as assistants to the class Teaching Assistant (TA) in Math (Calculus), Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Chemical Engineering.

The Learning Assistant (LA) Program facilitates collaboration between two entities — the UC Davis CalTeach/MAST program and the host STEM department/instructors. It is designed to provide a valuable and informative academic experience for both the undergraduates in sections that utilize LAs and for the LAs themselves.
Apply to the LA Program

Important Reminders

  • Learning Assistants are undergraduates. They will not have primary responsibility for a small-group section, nor will they be responsible for grading assigned work, holding office hours, or any other designated TA duty.
  • "Graduate Student Employment Handbook for Teaching Assistants and Associates In_"
  • LAs assist the TA and instructor as part of their academic learning experience. They must always work under the supervision of a Teaching Assistant and/or instructor.
  • The LA program is designed to be an active and productive experience in which the LAs interact directly with enrolled students by facilitating small group instruction and learning.
  • LAs may be given the opportunity to lead whole-group discussions discussions if and only if the TA or instructor is present throughout and actively available for guidance.

Contact information

UC Davis CalTeach/MAST program
Learning Assistant Coordinator
1362 Earth and Physical Sciences Building
mast@ucdavis.edu | 530-754-1056

Benefits of the Learning Assistant program

Benefits to Learning Assistants

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the course subject matter.
  • Experience for yourself how individuals learn and acquire knowledge in order to improve your own study skills.
  • Develop and improve your ability to communicate complex ideas and concepts in STEM disciplines.
  • Practice questioning and listening skills that can be translated to your future careers, whatever they may be.
  • Learn to facilitate positive and productive group interactions.

Benefits to STEM Departments

  • Active learning environments have been shown to promote better learning outcomes.
  • Students enrolled in introductory courses in particular will benefit from the extra help and encouragement that undergraduate LAs provide. LAs are closer in age and experience to the enrolled students and can relate more directly to their struggles.
  • TAs will improve their mentoring skills through interaction with their assigned LA(s).
  • LAs will increase their confidence in their field of study by developing a deeper understanding of the subject matter as they assist and learn from a TA and/or instructor, facilitating small group discussions and assisting students one-on-one.  They will also develop communication and interpersonal skills necessary to be successful in their intended careers – a “learning outcome” for many majors, particularly in STEM fields.

Responsibilities of the Learning Assistant program partners

Learning Assistant Responsibilities

  • Enroll, attend, and actively participate in
    • all LA training including GEL 186 and any meetings required by the host department
    • assigned discussion, lab, and/or lecture sections of no more than 3 hours/week
  • Follow all academic and instructional guidelines as outlined by their departmental and CalTeach/MAST instructors and Teaching Assistants.
  • Act professionally at all times regarding academic honesty, confidentiality, and peer interactions.

CalTeach/MAST Responsibilities

  • CalTeach/MAST offers GEL 186: Facilitating Learning in STEM Classrooms, a seminar course that provides students with the skills necessary to become successful Learning Assistants. The one-unit seminar course covers current educational theory and pedagogy relevant to the LA experience, including higher order thinking skills and research on facilitating learning in an academic environment.  Students learn questioning techniques that they will put into practice during their service as LAs.
  • CalTeach/MAST provides LA recruitment support to departments, and any additional help that may be necessary to help their TAs and instructors effectively incorporate the LA undergraduates into courses, particularly introductory courses.

Department Responsibilities

  • Departments will ensure that LAs who so desire will receive academic credit, in keeping with university policy. Approximately 30 hours of internship = 1 unit of academic credit. For example:  a 1-hour planning meeting per week + 2 hours of “in-class time” would = 1 unit.  (https://icc.ucdavis.edu/find/internships/academic-credit).
  • Instructors agree to provide academic training for the LAs (generally one hour per week) in which LAs will have the opportunity to review pertinent course material.
  • If Learning Assistants are assisting in laboratory settings, departments MUST ensure that they receive any and all safety training required by the university.

LA program FAQ

  • What Classes Can I be an LA for?
    The individual courses participating in the LA program vary each quarter.  We currently partner with the MAT 17 and 21 series, PHY 7 series, Life Science BIS 2 series and the CHE 2 series, which all use LAs in their courses.
  • Is the LA program only for STEM classes?
  • Can I be an LA for more than one class in a quarter?
  • Can I be an LA for more than one quarter?
    Yes. There are many returning LAs who choose to LA for the same course more than once, or LA for different courses over the course of their undergraduate experience.
  • Am I allowed to be a first-time LA if I cannot make it to the pedagogy seminar (GEL 186)?
    Unfortunately, no. The pedagogy seminar teaches LAs evidence-based practices that are essential to facilitating active learning in the classroom.