Document Type


Publication Date

January 2017

Publication Title

American Society for Engineering Education


Education | Educational Methods


Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate peer educators who participate in weekly pedagogyseminars and work alongside faculty instructors in active-learning based undergraduate courses.While LA programs were initially developed for science and math courses, many LA programssupport LAs in a wide range of disciplines. This paper describes a pilot adaptation of the LAprogram for engineering design courses that we have developed at the University of Maryland,College Park Campus. All LAs assist in 14 separate sections of University of Maryland’sengineering design course for first-year undergraduate students. Our seminar integrates topicsfrom the discipline-general LA pedagogy seminar (cognitive science of learning, facilitation ofclassroom discourse, collaboration, metacognition) with topics especially relevant to engineeringdesign (design reviews, design thinking, expert-novice practices in engineering design,engineering epistemology, teamwork and equity). While seminar goals aligned with the goals ofLA programs nationally, our seminar design team also articulated several values which guidedthe design of our seminar: a) helping LAs reframe their role as supporting growth rather thanevaluation, b) valuing a broad set of metrics of success from day one, c) celebrating that differentstudents bring in different expertise, and disrupting overly simplistic expertise/novicedichotomies, d) acknowledging that we all have different starting points and valuing a pluralityof goals, e) helping our students track their own progress through reflecting on concreterepresentations of their thinking, and f) supporting LAs in developing deep disciplinaryknowledge of design thinking. This paper describes the embodiment of these goals byhighlighting several key features of the seminar. We conduct quantitative and qualitative analysisof several data sources (surveys, instructor reflections, field notes, and coursework) to assess theextent to which the embodiment of our values helped us meet our goals. Finally, we describechallenges and identify areas where we were not meeting our goals and describe some of theaspects of the seminar that we plan to revise in the next iteration.


This article was originally presented at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference Exposition, Columbus, Ohio, and can also be found at this link. © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education