Learning Assistants

Working with and Recruiting Learning Assistants

Learning Assistants (LAs) are talented undergraduate students who serve as learning coaches and mentors for students while supporting instructors with teaching-related tasks. LAs are assigned to a particular course and work closely with instructors to provide challenging and meaningful learning experiences for students enrolled in the course.

Instructors who are interested in working with LAs should recruit their best students to apply each semester. Instructors who recruit LAs from students in their own courses tend to have an easier time getting started at the beginning of the semester, as they already have a prior academic relationship. For more information on how to best recruit LAs from your classes, check out these LA recruiting tips from experienced IST instructors. 

Information follows on what the job entails, the best uses of LAs, and the application process.

If you have questions, email us at learning@ist.psu.edu.

Who is qualified to be an LA?

Successful LA applicants must show a good understanding of course material (having completed the course with either an A or A-), academic success (a minimum cum GPA of 3.2), good communication skills (both speaking and writing), initiative, and a desire to help others. LAs must also arrange their schedules to allow them to attend the class in which they are working.

What are the mandatory responsibilities of the LA position?

Mandatory responsibilities are listed in the LA Job Description. All LAs are required to meet with the instructor at a regularly scheduled time each week; communicate regularly with instructor, teaching team, and students in the course; prepare for specific teaching- and learning-related assignments; and attend class (unless otherwise specified by instructor).

What can instructors assign LAs to do?

Instructors determine what LAs will be responsible for from the full list of responsibilities in the LA-Instructor Agreement form.  LAs may assist with explaining course concepts in office hours, providing ungraded feedback on assignments, helping teams get organized for large projects, coaching students on problems related to course assignments, and collecting informal feedback on how the course is going. They may also assist with grading (provided the instructor supplies the student with a grading rubric).

How do LAs receive feedback throughout the semester?

Instructors should provide regular, verbal feedback to LAs throughout the semester. In addition, instructors will be prompted at the middle and end of the semester to provide written feedback using an online evaluation form. Students enrolled in the course are asked to provide written feedback to LAs as well. Links to online evaluation forms are sent to instructors via email to distribute to students.

How do students learn about the application process?

The LA Program sends an email each semester to explain the application process to new applicants. In addition, faculty members help inform students by presenting recruiting slides in their classes and sharing the LA marketing flyer around the middle of the semester.

Where should interested students apply?

Students can apply to be Learning Assistants by completing the application. Applications for Fall semester open in March each year, and applications for Spring semester open in October. The application form will stay open until all course assistant needs for the following semester are filled.