Learning Assistants are talented undergraduates who work with faculty members to make large-enrollment courses more collaborative, student-centered, and interactive. Learning Assistant programs provide potential future teachers with strongly supported and low-stress early teaching experiences that can encourage them to pursue teaching certification. In many cases, these potential teachers can be unsuspecting students who do not know they have an interest in teaching until they try it. Thus, a Learning Assistant program broadens the pool of students from which you can recruit future physics teachers. In fact, research has shown that Learning Assistant programs improve undergraduate performance in physics courses, facilitate multi-disciplinary collaboration among faculty, involve more faculty in teacher preparation efforts, and recruit talented science majors to teaching careers. Learning Assistants also enhance their content knowledge through the process of teaching course material.
The specific roles that Learning Assistants take on can vary between courses, but all programs share certain features that distinguish them from more conventional teaching assistantships: