Research Programs within PRIMES

There are several different projects being conducted throughout PRIMES.  Some projects, such as the impact on the UTAs, is being conducted across all the participating departments.  Many others are being conducted within a single department.  New studies are being discussed and so the list of projects will continue to grow over the next two years.

Impacts on the Undergraduate Teaching Assistants

Based on surveys and written reflections taken throughout their teaching term, UTAs have reported

  • Improved ability to be a stronger metacognitive learner (very strongly supported)
  • Improved teaching skills
  • Improved communication skills
  • Improved ability to understand differing perspective
  • Deepened foundational content knowledge understanding

Impacts on Students

Due to the significant variation in how UTAs are utilized at the department level, studies on student impact are performed on a department by department basis.


The UofL Chemistry department has a long history of utilizing UTAs in various courses.  Because of this, they have been able to take a leadership role in framing their research goals.  Thus far 2 separate studies on student impact have been conducted.

Chemistry 201 - Study of UTA vs. GTA comparison group on student outcomes
600 students were randomly divided into 14 UTA-led recitation sections and 15 GTA-led recitation sections
Study was statistically controlled for key incoming student variables (ACT Math, College GPA, Number of STEM AP courses)
Results indicate that there is no overall difference on final exam scores between UTA and GTA-led groups
However, students with a college GPA above the mean tended to score significantly higher on the final exam (8.5% higher) if they had a UTA
UTA-led students were 3-times more likely to enroll in Chemistry 202 if it was required by their declared major
Chemistry 202 - Follow-up Study on persistence and dosage effect
UTA-led students did equally well as GTA-led students
However, a cumulative dosage effect was clear - student who had UTAs in both Chemistry 201 and 202 scored higher than those who had only 1 UTA who scored higher than those who had not had a UTA

Chemical Engineering

While UTAs are utilized in several core courses in Chemical Engineering, the first course in which their impact is being measured is Chemical Engineering 253 - An Introduction to Materials Science.  This is a large lecture course where the UTAs are leading supplemental instruction sessions outside the normal class time.  Student attendance at these sessions is incentivized with extra credit if they attend more than half of the weekly sessions offered during the course of the semester.  While the results are still being studied, one early conclusion is that students who attended at least half of the UTA sessions scored more that 5% higher on the final exam over those students that did not attend at least half the UTA sessions.

Civil Engineering

Research of the UTA impact on students in the Civil Engineering department are focused on Civil and Environmental Engineering 205 - Mechanics 1: Statics.  This is a required course in the Civil Engineering department and one of the first majors course a Civil Engineering student will take.  UTAs are utilized during class time where they work on small-group problem-solving as part of the 75-minute lecture.  Since the entire class is being exposed to the UTAs, results from the course are being compared to historical peer groups from recent years without UTA treatment.  While very preliminary, results do seem to indicate a positive academic boost.

Other Departments

Research studies are currently being planned or have been initiated in several other departments, including Engineering Fundamentals, Mathematics, and Physics.