Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Valerie K. Otero

Second Advisor

Noah D. Finkelstein

Third Advisor

Lorrie A. Shepard

Fourth Advisor

Erin M. Furtak

Fifth Advisor

David C. Webb


The Colorado Learning Assistant (LA) Model has demonstrated that it is successful in helping to meet multiple goals including enhancing student learning in LA-supported courses, increasing conceptual understanding of physics among LAs, and improving the teaching practices of former LAs in K-12 schools. The research reported here investigated the experiences of first-time physics LAs taking into account the goals of the program, the learning philosophies implicit in the design of the LA experience, and the learning philosophies embedded in materials used in the physics department's implementation of the LA model. Through interviews and analysis of LAs' written reflections, two generalized models were established. These models represent the views of teaching and learning that undergraduate students generated throughout their first semester serving as LAs in Physics 1110. LAs' views and experiences, and the philosophy that drives the LA model are described as they pertain to a spectrum of views of formative assessment found in the literature. Inferences are made about the importance of the participatory learning model that drives the LA program. Finally, the value of the program for science education more broadly and the dependence of formative assessment sophistication on the teachers' understanding of science will be discussed.