LA & PLTL Info

Learning Assistant Program

At FIU, we provide students who might be interested in teaching with a variety of educational experiences early in their college career to evaluate their interest in teaching careers. The project mission is to improve and promote the education of future physics, chemistry, biology, earth science and mathematics teachers.

The Learning Assistant Program was pioneered at FIU in the Physics Department through the FIU PhysTEC project. PhysTEC is a joint effort at improving teacher preparation that is facilitated by three of the most prominent national physics societies, the American Physical Society (APS), American Institute of Physics (AIP), and American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The LA program has now includes chemistry, earth science, and mathematics and is integrated into our science and mathematics teacher preparation programs. LA programs originated at the University of Colorado-Boulder and have spread to a number of national sites. Currently, FIU has the largest Learning Assistant Program in the nation.

Peer-Led Team Learning

Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) is an internationally disseminated active learning pedagogy where students in small groups (6-12 students) meet once a week outside of lecture, and review lecture material with a peer-leader in a workshop format. A peer-leader is a students who has successfully completed the course that they are leading.

At FIU, PLTL began in 2000 by Prof. Thomas Pitzer in the Biological Sciences. It has remained, at FIU, within the department of Biological Sciences, but has spread from just General Biology, to over 12 courses (including upper-division courses). The PLTL program at FIU is currently the largest in the world, with over 600 peer-leaders a year, assisting over 7,000 students a year. The PLTL paradigm began in the City College of New York, in collaboration with Rochester University, and St. Xavier College.

The advantages of PLTL for students is well documented, and currently multiple studies are being conducted to determine the benefits of being a peer-leader, which preliminary results indicate that they do perform better in their own courses, they improve their own leadership skills, and they improve in their public speaking abilities. PLTL is also being used as part of the treacher preparation for the new Bachelor's of Science in Biology Education to prepare future Biology teachers.