Analysis of the Eberly College of Science Learning Assistants Program in the Context of National Science Education Reform

Open Access
Pillion, Marley
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Scott T Phillips, Thesis Supervisor
  • Raymond Lee Funk, Honors Advisor
  • Jacqueline Bortiatynski, Thesis Supervisor
  • Chemical Education
  • Science Education
Although it has been established for decades that active learning teaching methods are significantly better for student understanding than traditional lecture there has been little change in the method of instruction at the university level. The Eberly College of Science Center for Excellence in Science Education is developing a Learning Assistants program with the ultimate goal of incorporating more active learning and research based teaching techniques in the classroom to improve the quality of undergraduate science education at Penn State. This thesis details my study of the perceptions of the students and Learning Assistants in regard to the developing ECoS Learning Assistant Program progress in achieving its goals through the investigation of national efforts to reform undergraduate science education and study of the courses that incorporated LA’s. Utilizing multiple assessment methods, I determined that students believe having LA’s helped increase their understanding of course material and students in courses that have LA’s are more comfortable working with their peers. LA’s report having an increased understanding of course material and science pedagogy, as well as deeper relationships with the course professor. Based on these results, I conclude that the Penn State LA program is successfully making progress in achieving its goals. However, there is still significant room for improvement, and based on my findings I present recommendations for the Penn State Learning Assistants program in order for it to become more successful in transforming undergraduate science education at Penn State.