With rising student numbers there is an increasing problem with finding an adequate supply of suitable postgraduate demonstrators for undergraduate practicals. In the USA it is common for students to work as part of their undergraduate experience, and c.v.-enhancing academic roles are valued more highly than flipping burgers or waiting tables, although they are paid at similar rates. In the UK, undergraduate science timetables do not easily allow students to work as demonstrators in labs. But this idea fits neatly into the current HEA preoccupation with students as partners/producers and there is probably funding available to develop this. If this paper is to be believed, it may be a possible solution to the demonstrator problem that we cannot afford to ignore.
Enhancing student learning of research methods through the use of undergraduate teaching assistants. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 2013
Abstract: By using a quasi-experimental design, in this study, we test the effect of undergraduate teaching assistants on student learning. Data were collected from 170 students enrolled in four sections of a quantitative research methods course, two sections without undergraduate teaching assistants and two sections with undergraduate teaching assistants, over two semesters. Results indicate that having undergraduate teaching assistants in the classroom can result in higher student performance. Students in the sections with undergraduate teaching assistants earned higher grades, were more likely to pass the course with a C or higher and performed better on half of the student learning outcomes than students in the sections without an undergraduate teaching assistant. Based on the overwhelmingly positive results on student learning, we would recommend the active use of undergraduate teaching assistants in the classroom, but especially for courses that students find challenging.