College - Author 1

College of Science and Mathematics

Department - Author 1

Physics Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BA in Physics



Primary Advisor

Laura Ríos, College of Science and Mathematics, Physics Department


The Learning Assistant (LA) Model was co-developed by Richard McCray and Valerie Otero at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2003. In this model, senior undergraduate students serve as facilitators for group discussion in lower-division courses, and employ evidenced-based practices for promoting inquiry and active learning [1]. Since its inception, the LA model has grown to various departments, disciplines, and universities.

At California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly), the LA program in the physics department is still in its early stages. As such, it is an environment rich for exploration into the affordances, limitations, and benefits of the program for students, instructors, and Learning Assistants (LAs).

In this thesis, we explore the link between instructor communication and educational efficacy as perceived by LAs in various stages of their participation in the program. Through analysis of semi-structured interviews, we find that LAs perceive themselves as more effective when they reflect with instructors on short-, medium- and long-term goals for the course, and are given the opportunity to prepare conceptual content, questions, and also be integrated into the classroom to attend to students’ affective needs. In short, LAs find themselves responding best to a full integration into the classroom structure on various levels.

In Section II (Theoretical Framing), we discuss the research literature that frames our methods and analytical lens. In Section III (Methodology), we outline the methods for collecting interview data and participation demographics for full context. In Section IV (Data and Analysis), we provide details about the interview data and thematic analysis. Finally, we discuss implications for concrete actions for instructors and program directors in Section V.

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