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  • Writer's picturegsbeglia

Be an Undergraduate Learning Assistant

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Applications are open for spring 2024

Do you want to help your classmates learn biology while getting 3-credits towards your major?

Thank you for your interest in applying to be an Undergraduate Learning Assistant (ULA) in BIOL 204 (Organismal Biology) in Spring 2024. ULAs are a critical member of BIOL 204's instructional team and will work closely with the course instructor throughout the semester to support student learning of biology. This course will be taught by Dr. Gena Sbeglia, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at SDSU. She is a Biologist and a Biology Education Researcher who is focused on improving the quality and equity of undergraduate biology learning. ULAs are critical to achieving equitable outcomes in large gateway science courses and we are seeking applicants for 33 ULA spots in BIOL 204 for Spring 2024. Please read on for more information about being a ULA in BIOL 204. Applications are due November 6th, 2023.

What's BIOL 204 going to be like in Spring 2024?

In Spring 2024, BIOL 204 will be offered as an evidence-based active learning course. This means that evidence about how people learn will be infused into all aspects of this course. All lecturing will occur via video and students will meet once per week to engage in collaborative biological problem solving and model building. This course is designed to support the learning of ALL students regardless of their prior knowledge and academic privilege, which differs greatly among SDSU's students.

What are the requirements to be a ULA?

To be eligible to be a ULA in BIOL 204, you must be a current SDSU student, have completed BIOL 204 within the past 2 years, and have a strong desire to support equitable student learning. Preference will be given to students who completed BIOL 204 in Spring 2024. In addition, ULAs will register for a 3-credit ULA prep course (BIOL 496). This TA prep course gives a letter grade and will count towards the biology major. There will be three sections of BIOL 496 (although the course number may change) and ULAs will be required to be available to meet in-person at ALL times for their respective session. The times/days for each section are: Section 1: MWF 12:00-12:50pm (ULAs will attend the BIOL 204 active learning session each Friday at this time) Section 2: MWF 1:00-1:50pm (ULAs will attend the BIOL 204 active learning session each Friday at this time) Section 3: MWF 2:00-2:50pm (ULAs will attend the BIOL 204 active learning session each Friday at this time) What will I do as a UTLA? ULAs will work closely with the 3-4 groups (~9-12 students) during weekly active learning sessions throughout the semester. ULAs will be well prepared to support student learning through their enrollment in a 3-credit ULA preparation course (BIOL 496). BIOL 496 will cover topics such as cognition, effective feedback, group work, and DEI in the classroom. BIOL 496 will involve the following each week: (1) Video lectures on core topics in biology learning, including an overview of the specific misconceptions that students may have for each topic covered in the course. (2) Participation in discussion sessions about teaching and learning with Dr. Sbeglia, (3) Participation in the BIOL 204 active learning classroom on Fridays each week, (4) Responding to student questions on online help boards or during office hours. The time commitment is similar to that of other 3-credit courses. Successful applicants will receive permission to register for this course once registration opens. How might I benefit from this position? Former ULAs have found this position to be extremely rewarding both personally and professionally and report that the time commitment is very reasonable. In fact, many ULAs have returned to the TA role for two or even three semesters because they felt that they made an important difference for their students. In addition, most ULAs have found that they improved their own biological understanding because they uncovered lingering misconceptions (we all have them!) in the process of preparing to help their students. They also appreciated the close relationship they were able to build with course faculty, who look forward to writing strong letters of recommendation for ULAs every year. Former ULAs have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in medicine, biology, engineering, and law (among others) and frequently report that this TA position was one of their most formative experiences as an undergraduate student. Thank you for your interest in this ULA position and for your desire to support equitable instruction at SDSU. We encourage students from all backgrounds to apply to be a ULA for BIOL 204, particularly those from backgrounds that have been historically excluded from STEM. In addition, we have some funding to support students who are interested in being a ULA but who may not have the financial circumstances to do so (see application for details). Applications are due November 6th, 2023. The full application can be found here.

Applications are open for Spring 2024


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