Leading the Way in Learner-Led Design

CEILS learning assistants provide academic support to their peers.The UCLA Library and the Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) are partnering to help undergraduates excel in the STEM disciplines by focusing on “learner-led” design —teaching sessions and materials created for students, by students. This approach is proving successful in helping to reverse declining retention of students from underrepresented groups in STEM studies.

Several times each week, high-achieving STEM students who serve as CEILS learning assistants host office hours, study sessions, and class reviews in the UCLA Science and Engineering Library’s STEM Collaborative Learning Center (STEM-CLC). (During the pandemic closure, they’re working with students online.) Their work is augmented by that of students from the Library’s WI+RE (Writing Instruction + Research Education) program, who design workshops, tutorials, and printable materials on topics like how to create a literature review, or using primary and secondary sources in research. 

This year, science librarians Renee Romero and Doug Worsham taught a two-unit course for learning assistants ­that helped them identify challenges for students, then develop online tutorials to help their Bruin peers overcome these obstacles. “Some 350 learning assistants provide academic support for more than 10,000 students each quarter,” said Romero. “By empowering them with the skills to design instructional materials, the Library enhances the time that they have to help their peers in-person and remotely.” 

Cymfenee Dean-Phifer, a learning assistant for “Life Sciences 7B: Genetics, Evolution and Ecology,” noticed her peers struggle to differentiate between bottleneck and founder effect, and created an animated video to explain the two genetic drift concepts. Working with librarians, said Dean-Phifer, “helped push me to do my best and to find creative ways to help students who would eventually use my video to learn.”

The UCLA Library is now enhancing the experience for even more students. Two learning assistants joined the WI+RE team to create online STEM resources, which will be available to UCLA students wherever they are studying remotely. The STEM-CLC space is also being upgraded with new modular furniture and movable whiteboards to better meet the needs of students when they return to campus. 

If you are interested in supporting the growth of this program or have questions about UCLA Library’s remote-learning efforts, contact Library Development at (310) 206-8526, visit giving.ucla.edu/library, or use the enclosed envelope.