Pedagogy Course

Peer Instruction Education (01:090:322)

Learning assistants are required to co-enroll in this pedagogy course during their first semester in the LA Program, and subsequent participation in the LA Program is contingent upon successful completion of this course.

Course Overview

The content of this course focuses on effective methods of college teaching and instructional strategies. Students participate in activities design to increase their understanding of the role of a peer educator. The instructional strategies taught in this class align with the Learning Center's guiding principles of student-centered, active, cooperative learning environments and differentiated classroom instruction.

Through this course, students learn how to:

  • work with course instructors to facilitate small-group learning among students in their lectures
  • help teaching assistants facilitate individual and small-group student learning during recitations
  • lead study groups or recitations, which involves
    • designing student-centered activities
    • facilitating small group learning through dialogic discourse and effective questioning techniques

Course Topics

Learning assistants are trained to facilitate learning and engage students in scientific discourse (rather than act as experts who have knowledge that needs to be transmitted to the student). Topics include:

  • qualities of effective teachers
  • questioning techniques
  • learning theories
  • cooperative learning
  • memory and metacognition
  • activity design
  • diversity

Course Structure

The course design models active and collaborative learning experiences for the students, who then can apply these strategies and techniques in their assigned lectures, recitations, labs, and study groups.

Constructing Knowledge

As course instructors, we do not lecture the students who enroll in this course. Rather, this course follows a "flipped classroom" design. Students are required to read content (from discipline-based education research articles; review articles; book chapters) prior to class. During class, students discuss the content in small-group and as a whole-class; participate in active, collaborative learning activities related to the content; and develop their own activities that they can utilize as study group leaders or contribute to lesson planning for recitations, labs, and lectures.

Assessment of Student Learning

Students demonstrate their understanding of course content through frequent, formative assessment activities: weekly, online reflective blogs and bi-weekly, application homework exercises. Students are assessed summatively through a midterm exam, a portfolio of activities, a final paper (a teaching philosophy statement), and a final project (a poster presentation of literature research related to a topic in discipline-based education research).

Course Offerings

Currently, this course is offered in both the fall and spring semester for first-semester LAs. More sections are offered in the fall and the majority of new LAs register for the course in fall. To discuss designing such a course, or the potential to offer such a course for the peer leaders in your program, please email Dr. Alice Seneres or Stacey Blackwell.


I recently completed a 6-month volunteering project in Brazil where part of my duties included teaching English, Spanish, and basic science to at-risk and orphaned youth and adolescents. Everything that I learned in the LA Program’s Peer Instructor Education Course (particularly related to collaborative learning environments) and through being a genetics learning assistant was incredibly helpful and, without a doubt, enhanced my ability to reach out and teach such a tough population.

Melanie Davila
BA Genetics, minor Public Health (2013)
learning assistant for genetics (01:447:380) 2012-2013