Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 756-2448
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Email: physics@calpoly.edu
Chair: Karl Saunders

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Learning Assistants in Physics, Astronomy, Geology, and Physical Sciences

    

Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate students who help fellow students learn under the supervision of a faculty member. The main role of LAs is not to explain the material, but instead to facilitate learning by asking probing questions, to help students make progress by themselves. LAs have taken the course previously (often at Cal Poly) and are selected through a quarterly application process.

The LA program has three components:

  • Content preparation: The course instructor meets with the LAs on a weekly basis to discuss the course learning objectives, typical student difficulties, and issues in facilitating student learning.
  • Pedagogy: To ensure LAs are well prepared to engage in peer-assisted learning, LAs will enroll in the LA seminar (SCM 230) for concurrent and ongoing pedagogical preparation.
  • Practice: LAs interact with students, individually or in small groups, during class time. Activities supported by LAs require students to participate actively, instead of merely taking notes or listening; students are asked to communicate their thinking and reasoning explicitly.

LAs receive salary for their work. LAs will not only gain a much deeper understanding of the content, but also significant experience in teaching in a college classroom, particularly useful for those who are interested to explore teaching as a vocation. A well-supported, student-centered teaching experience provides a low-stakes entry into the world of secondary or tertiary teaching. Our department is part of the International Learning Assistant Alliance.

Several sections of the calculus-based introductory physics course sequence (PHYS 141, PHYS 132, PHYS 133), general education astronomy (ASTR 101, ASTR102), geology (GEOL 201), and physical science (PSC 101) classes use LAs. In addition to the LA seminar, the total hours per week depend on the class, as listed below.

Table of Paid LA hours/week

Class

LA hours/week

ASTR 101, ASTR 102

Attend 4 hours of in-class time per week. Meet with instructor for a 1-hour preparation meeting prep week. 1 hour preparation per week. May be asked to do additional grading or hold LA office hours. Total of 6 hours per week.

PHYS 141, PHYS 132, PHYS 133

Attend 2 hours of in-class time per week (or more, depending on interest by the LA and with instructor approval). Meet with instructor for a 1-hour preparation meeting. May be asked to do additional grading or hold LA office hours. Total of 4 hours per week.

GEOL 201

Attend 3 hours of in-class time per week. Meet with instructor of a 1-hour preparation meeting per week. May be asked to do additional grading or hold LA office hours. Total 4 hours per week.

PSC 101

Attend 6 hours of in-class time per week. Meet with instructor for a 1-hour preparation meeting per week. 1 hour prep per week. May be asked to do additional grading or hold LA office hours. Total of 8 hours per week.

If you are interested in becoming a Learning Assistant, fill in this brief Survey, so you will receive the announcement for the next hiring cycle. For more information, contact phys-la@calpoly.edu.

To apply for Spring 2022, fill in this survey.

 

 

 

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