WHAT ARE LEARNING FELLOWS?
Dartmouth is known for the scholar-teacher model. As our mission statement attests, "Dartmouth faculty are passionate about teaching our students and are at the forefront of their scholarly or creative work." Our faculty care deeply about their students and are always looking for ways to improve their courses.
The Dartmouth Learning Fellows Program, DCAL’s newest initiative, provides a solution to one of the biggest challenges that faculty face in revamping their teaching: resources. Dartmouth faculty want to improve their teaching, but they lack effective ways of incorporating new techniques into their existing classes. The Learning Fellows Program builds faculty development directly into teaching itself and constitutes experiential learning for students and faculty alike.
The Learning Fellows Program partners undergraduate students with academic faculty to design and deliver active learning opportunities in Dartmouth courses. Through this program, faculty, student Learning Fellows, and Learning Designers work together over the ten weeks of the term to adopt active-learning practices and respond to issues that come up in the classroom as they arise.
Learning Fellows are undergraduate students trained in pedagogy. They support faculty by helping small groups of students interact positively with each other and engage more deeply in the course material. These talented leaders form a bridge between students and faculty, encouraging students to interact with faculty more directly, translating difficult concepts between experts and novices, and providing faculty with feedback from the student perspective.
The national model for learning assistants programs was founded in 2003 in the Department of Physics at University of Colorado, Boulder.
Number of Learning Fellows by Year. 2015-16: 15 learning fellows, 293 students, 5 courses. 2016-17: 94 learning fellows, 1458 students, 35 courses. 2017-18: 111 learning fellows, 1975 students, 39 courses.
WHAT DO LEARNING FELLOWS DO?
- Support faculty in their teaching by providing human resources in-class and feedback outside of class
- Provide academic support and peer mentorship for students during class time
- Facilitate small group activities, including problem-solving sessions, discussions, simulations, and group projects
The addition of Learning Fellows has led to:
- More active learning in class
- Better functioning student groups
- Earlier and more frequent feedback to students and assessment of student learning
- Earlier identification of content areas where students struggle
- More faculty time for course preparation and summative assessment
- A renewed enthusiasm for teaching by our faculty
- Deeper relationship between faculty, staff, and students
A TEAM APPROACH
At the heart of the Learning Fellows Program model are weekly teaching meetings with faculty, Learning Fellows, and Learning Designers. These meetings, called “teaching huddles,” weave new teaching practices directly into the process of teaching a class, in real time. This iterative process allows faculty to put new techniques into use immediately and get regular feedback on them, making adjustments as they go along and ensuring that the most effective changes will stick.
Professor Robyn Millan in the Department of Physics restructured the format of PHYS 13, an introductory course on the fundamentals of physics. She designed new problem sets and small group activities, then worked with Learning Fellows to implement these learning strategies in the classroom.
Professor Millan explains, “The Learning Fellows became an important part of planning activities each week. They often had a different perspective, so that helped me to better understand where the students were coming from.”
3500+ students in classes with Learning Fellows