Peer learning assistants are undergraduate students who have the credibility of having recently completed the courses and learned the material and skills that current students are grappling to master. They are an asset to the instructional team (besides faculty or graduate teaching assistants) as they remember the challenges and can provide timely help from a perspective that is close to that of the students. Sometimes students are hesitant to ask the professor for help, but are more likely to seek out a PLA to ask questions. In addition to help students learn PLAs also help faculty teach by providing instructors with feedback on what challenges students are facing as they progress through their courses.
Depending on the teaching role you will have as PLA and your associated weekly commitment your award may vary. For example if you support a course for 5 hours a week you will receive an award of $750, and for 10 hours each week you will receive an award of $1,500; awards are for the semester and through ScholarDollar$. Please note that this award is treated as any other merit based award and may affect other financial aid arrangements (such as the amount of federal loans you might be able to take). Please contact your financial aid adviser to find out.
What students have said about their experience as peer learning assistants:
“I felt that I was able to be useful both to the students and to myself. Clearly having to review concepts in order to help teach them was very useful for me and when you teach something to someone else you almost always end up understanding it even better yourself, so for myself the experience has been quite useful. As far as how effective I felt I was at helping other students, I think that given the number of questions I answer it is clear that there was no shortage of help needed and that my presence was certainly useful to help tackle those extra questions. Moreover, I felt like sometimes one or two of the students were more comfortable asking a peer questions than a professor, and the rest seemed – if not more comfortable – at least just as comfortable asking me questions as [the instructor] so I was able to help everyone equally.”
“Being a peer learning assistant is a very rewarding job. Not only does it help deepen your own understanding of the material, but it gives you a sense of community in your department.”
“It is an empowering experience to help students. You watch them learn and grow and you know you had a part in that. More than anything it causes you to continue to reach out and want to help students.”
“… being a PLA in a class that I recently completed is a great opportunity for me! I remember all of the assignments from the class and I am able to relate to my peers on each of them; I faced the same dilemmas that I see them facing; I overcame the same obstacles that they are overcoming. Being able to help them along the same path that I took very recently, especially with the insight that I have now, is very rewarding!”
As a PLA your role is to support learning (that of your students but also your own) and you do not need to be concerned about always “knowing the right answer” and having all content mastered. It is important that you can facilitate the discussion and the learning and help students in the decision making process that leads toward the desired solution of a problem or finding an answer.