Cynthia LaBrake

Cynthia LaBrake

Department of Chemistry
Creating Online Resources for the Development of Peer Learning Assistant Courses

Project Update

The large (300-500 students) general chemistry courses have replaced the straight lecture model with active, student-centered learning. Active learning requires coaching, and in a large class it is impossible to implement with only one instructor and one teaching assistant.

The Peer Learning Assistant Program trains and employs undergraduate chemistry students to serve as learning coaches within these large blended courses. The focus of this PTF initiative was to further develop the content of the CH372C: Peer Learning Assistants course.

Through the funding of this project, new resources were developed to: test student learning and show that students participating in our program have gains in their mastery of core chemistry concepts; create curricula to satisfy the Ethics and Leadership Flag criteria, which the course now carries—only the second in CNS to do so; and develop high- quality online course and program materials that are found on the CNS TIDEs website and archived in a Box folder.

The course will be replicated in the Spring 2017 semester to support active learning in a biology course.

Project Overview

The large (300 – 500 students) general chemistry courses have replaced the straight lecture model with active, student-centered learning. Active learning requires coaching, and in a large class it is impossible to implement with only one instructor and one teaching assistant. The Peer Learning Assistant Program trains and employs undergraduate chemistry students to serve as learning coaches within these large blended courses.

The focus of my PTF project is to further develop the content of CH372C: Peer Learning Assistants course. The course will be designed so it will carry an Ethics and Leadership Flag. I will also create web-based resources to assist other departments interested in developing a PLA training course.

What are you passionate about?

I am interested in creating engaging online learning environments. To support the hybrid model of teaching, I am specifically interested in creating and using high quality digital resources that will motivate deeper learning. Creating meaningful online learning communities using social media discussion platforms is of interest.

What is a teaching strategy that you've learned from another Fellow?

The one strategy that I have learned since joining the PTF program is the importance of creating opportunities for social learning both inside and outside the classroom.