The Department of Biology offers two ways for students to join the instructional team: becoming a learning assistant or laboratory
teaching assistant. Both of these opportunities help to make a difference in the academic success of fellow students and earn
BIOL 400 credit. To learn more, watch for periodic emails during the year or talk to an instructor about submitting an application
for these opportunities.
Be a Learning Assistant
Do you like helping students think through tough concepts? Are you looking for a good way to stay on
top of your science knowledge while making a difference in someone’s studies? A Learning Assistant
(LA) position may be perfect for you. With increasing frequency, more courses at Penn State are using
Learning Assistants. A typical LA spends 6 hours/week participating in a number of activities that include
facilitating classroom discussions, holding office hours, grading homework, and helping students hone
their study skills. Training is provided to Learning Assistants (typically the semester before they teach).
Be a Laboratory Teaching Assistant
Do you like labs? Are you interested in helping students learn first hand about biology? If so, then you
might want to consider being a Laboratory Teaching Assistant (TA). The Lab TAs lead individual lab sections
and, depending on the course, may work as part of a TA team. In some courses a TA team may share
responsibility equally, but in other courses there may be a Lead TA and a Co-TA. In all cases, the
Laboratory TAs are responsible for explaining and demonstrating the laboratory protocols, working with
students one-on-one and in small groups, grading assignments, and maintaining a safe and orderly
laboratory environment. Lab TAs also provide guidance on writing assignments such as lab reports and
notebooks, and provide students with regular feedback. Most Lab TAs hold regular office hours and
weekly TA meetings are common. Lab TAs receive training, either the semester before they teach
and/or during the semester while they are teaching. Lab TAs typically spend 6-8 hours/week working
with students, grading, and preparing for labs. Depending on the course and responsibilities,
Lab TAs sometimes receive a small hourly wage.