So you're interested in becoming a Peer Learning Assistant (PLA)?
Let us give you some pointers! Peer Learning Assistants are typically selected by faculty members to help facilitate teaching. PLAs create a bridge between faculties and students, particularly first years, and are able to establish peer mentoring relationships with fellow undergraduates. Additionally, PLAs are especially useful in leading small group discussions, assisting students who are struggling, and giving feedback. However, you cannot simply apply to be a PLA. You must be selected by a member of the Clark faculty. Here are some ways you can explore your interest in becoming a PLA.
- Contact the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). CETL can discuss typical PLA tasks with you and help you decide if such work appeals to you. As CETL is usually a resource used by faculty, they may even be in touch with faculty members seeking PLAs for the upcoming semester.
- Connect with other students who have been PLAs. Peers with PLA experience will give you a student perspective of what it means to be a PLA — was being a PLA fun and rewarding? Was it challenging? Did it open doors? Would they repeat their experience? Speak to a few peers so that you get a more nuanced view of what being a PLA means for undergraduates in general.
- Consider how much free time you have. PLAs typically have to dedicate 10-15 hours per week on assigned tasks, from holding office hours to attending courses. If you have a very packed schedule, becoming a PLA might not be a realistic choice.
- Consider compensation. Though students with federal work study can often be reimbursed for working as a PLA through their work study stipend, other students may not have the opportunity for receiving funding. If this is the case, another option would be to act as a PLA for institutional credit (e.g. independent study or directed reading).
- Talk to your professors. If you are confident that you would like to become a PLA, you should absoluetly reach out to your professors, particularly professors for courses in which you were high-achieving. Discuss your desire to become a PLA and ask them if they have any need for a PLA in upcoming courses. If they do not, it is still possible that they can refer you to other departments or professors seeking a PLA.
- Talk to the chair of your department. If you are interested more in the subject in which you work than working with a specific professor, contact the chair of the department and inform them of your interest. Department chairs can help you make connections with professors that you have not yet worked with. However, professors often select students with whom they have a preexisting relationship to act as their PLA.
- Contact the managerial or administrative assistants in your departments of interest. Another important resource for communicating your interest in becoming a PLA are managerial assistants. These individuals are in constant contact with professors and department heads. They may be able to connect you to professors in need of PLAs or even previous students who have acted as PLAs within the department. The key to success in this search is accessing your resources. If these networking tools are ineffective, stop in at the LEEP Center or Academic Advising to discuss next steps or other ways to become involved as a mentor on and off-campus.