Learning Assistants Alliance International Conference 2018

Check out our poster presentation, “A Thriving Ecosystem of Learning Fellows at Dartmouth College” from the 2018 Learning Assistants Alliance International Conference 2018 in Boulder, CO at CU-Boulder.


What started as one course with three learning fellows in the summer of 2015 has grown to just over 40 courses and almost 130 Learning Fellows in the 2018/2019 academic year. Learn how we handle shorter 9-week terms through weekly course team “huddles” that include the learning fellows, professor(s), and a learning designer or faculty developer. The ecosystem we’ve created not only benefits student learning, but offers professors and learning fellows training in pedagogy, reflection, and course design as well as giving the learning designers and faculty developers deeper insight into courses, the undergraduate experience, and stronger collaborative relationships with faculty.

Learning Fellows Program Receives Hearst Foundations Award

DCAL Receives Hearst Grant to Support Learning Fellows Program

HANOVER, NH July 19, 2018— On June 26, 2018, the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) was awarded a grant of $125,000 by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation to support the Dartmouth Learning Fellows Program. The grant will be used to sustain and increase capacity for the program, which pairs undergraduate students with academic faculty to design and deliver active learning opportunities in Dartmouth courses. Kate Norton in the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations played a pivotal role in supporting this effort.

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Jason Laackman honored as Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher

Jason Laackman, one of our Learning Fellows, was honored last month as an outstanding graduate student teacher! Jason is a Learning Fellow in War Stories (COLT 64/CLST 11), taught by Dr. Roberta Stewart. War Stories examines military texts from the ancients till today, trying to understand what it means to be a soldier during times of war. Jason, in addition to being a Dartmouth graduate student and Learning Fellow, is also a vet. Together with Jonathan Kong, also a vet and Learning Fellow for War Stories, Jason has helped students understand the narratives of war from a soldier’s perspective. Thank you, Jason and Jon, for your support of War Stories and your dedication to Dartmouth’s teaching excellence!

Read more about the graduate teaching awards here: https://dcal.dartmouth.edu/news/2017/04/outstanding-graduate-student-teacher-appreciation-lunch

And read more about the origins of Roberta Stewart’s War Stories course here: https://news.dartmouth.edu/news/2014/04/classics-professor-and-veterans-read-homer


The Laws of Physics

“Many people suffer unnecessarily in physics, just as they do in math. I liked that the department recognized that and was taking steps to change it.” – Benjamin Nesselrodt, ’19, Learning Fellow in PHYS 13

In winter term, 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 Ben Nesselrodt, Krishan Canzius, and Christopher Yu to implement these learning strategies in the classroom. Read more about their great work in Elli Goudzwaard’s new article: “The Fundamental Laws of Physics Classes!”


Congrats, Media Fellows!

Dartmouth’s student paper, The Dartmouth, has covered the new Media Fellows program! Congrats to Jess (our first Media Fellow), Colleen Goodhue (Media Production Group) and the new Media Fellows: Ava, Peter, and Veronica. We’re looking forward to bringing your talents to Dartmouth classrooms and pursuing new opportunities for digital storytelling & multimedia production!

Jess Fedin was a Media Fellow in Latin 1 with Dr. Suzanne Lye this past winter. She helped students create podcasts about Roman life, coordinating a new partnership with Dartmouth Radio. Ava Giglio, Peter Eggert, and Veronica Williamson will be Media Fellows this term, producing training videos for the Learning Fellows community and supporting JAPN 10 with Dr. Sachi Schdmit-Hori. In JAPN 10, the Media Fellows will help students to capture and share their experiences with Japanese culture. You can read more about the great work of the Media Fellows in The Dartmouth!

Many thanks to Colleen Goodhue, the Media Coordinator at Dartmouth’s Media Production Group, who supervisors the Media Fellows as they grow in their technical and pedagogical skills!



In case you missed it…

Learning Fellows were in the news this month! Check out Hannah Silverstein’s great article on the program “Learning Fellows are Transforming the Classroom Experience” in Dartmouth Now.  Congrats to Dr. Tom Jack, Abby Ward, Joseph Minichiello, Adina Harri, Adrienne Gauthier, Cindy Tobery, and everyone featured in the story. We were thrilled to have the Learning Fellows represented in Dartmouth Now and are looking forward to celebrating more of the wonderful teaching and learning stories happening in Dartmouth classrooms!

Special thanks as well this month to Drs. Patrick Dolph, Suzanne Lye, and Emily Klancher Merchant, who spoke at Dartmouth’s Learning Ignited event. This quarterly event features a panel of faculty speakers, each sharing stories of teaching innovations at Dartmouth. Our theme for Winter 2017 was “The Learning Fellows!” The event was live-tweeted by the Dartmouth Center for the Advanced of Learning. Check out some of the tweet captures below to see what professors are saying about the Learning Fellows!




Huddle resources are here

Hi all,

We’re excited to share our huddle activities with the wider Learning Fellows/Learning Assistants community. Over the past year, we’ve worked with more than 70 faculty and Fellows across all divisions of Dartmouth’s academic campus – Arts and Humanities, the Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences. Each course is unique, so we’ve had an amazing opportunity to develop new pedagogical activities depending on the faculty and Fellows’ needs. Our first ten huddle activities are now available for download, and we’ll be adding to the list as our program grows.

Thanks to all the faculty, staff, and Fellows who have helped craft these activities!



A Living Language: Latin 1 at Play

A few minutes after class begins, I step into the Carson 61 classroom to see what’s happening. The students are already abuzz, divided into three learning teams and rapidly dissecting Latin phrases on the board. Interruptions are frequent as students yell across the room to one another with new ideas and corrections, or to flag down the instructor, Dr. Suzanne Lye, to pepper her with questions. The scene is not so much chaotic as rambunctious; like a house party where everyone is playing Monopoly. It’s a little disorienting to an outsider and prompts many questions: Where are the desks? Where am I supposed to stand? Who is the teacher here?


Dr. Suzanne Lye points out features of the portraits of the Fayum mummies, a gateway to understanding the ancient Romans as real people with individual histories.

I’m an instructional designer, working with Lye on the development of her Latin 1 course. She’s invited me for the morning to see how the course is progressing. I’m excited to see how students are responding to Lye’s unusual teaching methods. Based in Carson 61, a campus incubator for innovations in teaching, the Latin 1 course intentionally discards many traditional ways of teaching. Students sit in working groups, not in rows. They get a preview of their quizzes and can test-out of quizzes if they’ve already mastered the material. Participation and making mistakes are often more highly valued than getting the correct answer. The focus is on process as well as results. Students of different competencies teach one another, with Lye and Shaket Chaudhary (the course’s Learning Fellow) acting as Montessori-like “guides on the side.” Lye encourages one group to prepare a study guide for the exam. “Oh, I made that already,” says a student. “I’ll share it with everyone.”

The collaborative nature of the course plays out like a bouncing ball, with Lye and Chaudhary sometimes throwing questions at the students, the students sometimes throwing questions back at them. In quick succession, classroom activities switch between students’ collaborating to translate Latin sentences on the board, a mini-lecture by Lye about Roman multiculturalism and the Roman portraits on mummies from Fayum, Egypt, and Latin bingo, led by Chaudhary.


Shaket Chaudhary is a Learning Fellow in Latin 1, providing teaching support to Dr. Lye and peer mentorship to the students. Chaudhary designs and leads some of the review games used in class.

Games like bingo are frequent features of the course. Trained in improvisational acting, Lye likes how “play” and games can work different parts of the brain. Her course brings these techniques to the classroom, hoping they will help students integrate Latin into their lives and memorize its core components by applying them in different situations. Chaudhary helps research and invent games with Lye to drill both vocabulary and concepts. During Latin bingo, for example, Chaudhary writes vocabulary words on the board while students must quickly match words to their morphological attributes, as described on their bingo cards. When a student yells bingo, they have to prove it by teaching the class which words go with which attributes. If a student gets one wrong, it’s not a mistake, just a “false alarm.” Play proceeds till the next “bingo” and until all the vocabulary words are matched.  Other games – like campus-wide scavenger hunts, elimination (modeled on the format of spelling bees), and improv skits – hone students’ vocabulary and syntax skills.


Latin bingo, a review game used in class, was developed during a design meeting with Dr. Lye, Chaudhary, and Jess Fedin, the course’s Media Learning Fellow. The students in Latin 1 have requested playing the game on multiple occasions.

Games and play create an electric atmosphere in Latin 1. The dynamic classroom space and collaborative teaching approach fulfill many of the desires behind “gameful learning,” including flexibility, individual expression, and staged mastery of the material. Though seemingly playful, the experience in Latin 1 is carefully crafted: Lye has meticulously outlined the trajectory of the course and how different types of students might converge and diverge from this path. She has an arsenal of ready-made activities to handle potential outcomes. She holds weekly design meetings with Chaudhary, Jess Fedin (the course’s Media Learning Fellow), and Colleen Goodhue (the Media Production Group) to assess outcomes of the different activities, re-design less successful ones, and plan new ones. She invites Chaudhary and Fedin to share their impressions from the student perspective and to take a leadership role in designing activities and mentoring students.


Dr. Lye (left) and Chaudhary (right) work as a teaching team to create an innovative, dynamic learning environment for the students in Latin 1.

The result of Lye’s intentionality is a course that makes a seemingly “dead” language feel real, close, relevant, and very much alive for its students. But for all the construction behind the course, there are some elements that just can’t be planned. Take Lye’s passion for Latin – it arises spontaneously from her, without any effort at all. “Do you know the word ludus?” she asks me, ever the teacher. I don’t. “It’s the Latin word for ‘school,’ and it’s also the Latin word for games and play. The Romans thought of education like a kind of sport. Ludus is the theme for this course.” I smile as I’m swept away by Lye’s enthusiasm.  I hear cheers from a group of students as their teammate gets all her bingo words correct. I’m not the only one who’s just learned something new.


Professional development events for Fellows

Based on feedback we received last quarter, we’re offering new professional development opportunities for our Learning Fellows! We matched some existing campus opportunities to their individual requests & some much-coveted career skills. We’ll rotate different professional development activities every quarter, based on student interest. For Winter 2017, we’re offering:

Hope to see you at one or more events!


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Freedom to Fail


No one likes the word “fail,” but bare with me here for a few minutes. Sometimes, we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Failure can help us learn the right skills for the right situations. Failure helps us build resiliency. Failure even motivates us; cognitive science shows that we experience a “near miss” on something that matters to us, we’re more likely to perform better the next time we encounter the same situation (see Rekart, “The Cognitive Classoom”). Like the Harvard Business review says, “The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible.”

Yet no one likes to fail, especially not in a college course. And we as educators don’t like to see our students fail. It can be tough to watch students flounder. Often, I have the instinct to reach out and help a student with an immediate problem, so that they won’t become frustrated or discouraged. As animals, we’re built to avoid risks and as humans, we’re built to help others avoid risks. It’s a great natural instinct to have.

How can we step back from that instinct and give students the space to fail, and fail constructively? Group work. Group work is an awesome place to experience failure. It’s one of the (many) reasons that Dartmouth uses group work in so many of its courses, and one of the (many) reasons that you as Learning Fellows are critical for the students in our courses. In group work, we act within a community. There is no individual singled out for a failure. Ideas can be tested. Skills can be practiced. Feedback and change are constant. When failure does happen, there is a support system in place for evaluating the failure and trying again.

“Failure helps us build resiliency.”

Sometimes, group work is a place where failure is expected and even embraced. You may have noticed that some of the group activities in our courses are designed to fail. Those activities can teach us important concepts like breaking points, theoretical impossibilities, resource exhaustion, or tipping the scale. All are valuable concepts that can be applied to many aspects of our lives, academic and otherwise.

Next week, many of our huddles will be processing group reflections from their students. This is an exciting time when we see how groups are operating and how students perceive the group work in their courses. It can also be a challenging time as we learn pieces of new information, which we might not expect and might not immediately know how to interpret. For Learning Fellows processing assessments and also those who are not, I encourage you to practice a little “freedom to fail” this week. Let’s pat ourselves on the back for jobs well done, and let’s embrace those moments when we seem to have (temporarily) failed. Let’s take a few more risks than we usually do and forgive ourselves when the risks don’t play out as we expect. Let’s try – just for one week – to think of failure as a good thing. Or at least, a thing with good potential.

I’ll end with a quote from one of the Learning Fellows in our Math 3 huddles. It’s originally from Adventure Time, a cartoon I’ve never seen. But I love the sentiment embraced by a character called Jake the Dog:

“Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”