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GTA Training Project


This project promotes active teaching and learning practices through training & professional development for graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). It is part of a collaboration with the Bio-TAP Network located at U. Tenn. Knoxville. This project will focus on training and evaluation of GTAs’ knowledge and skills, teaching practices, and impact on undergraduates.

Like BioTAP, this project will focus on three areas:

GTA Cognition

  • Knowledge, skills (pedagogical knowledge, assessment design)
  • Attitudes to teaching
  • Beliefs about teaching, GTA self-efficacy

GTA Teaching Practice

  • Planning (backward design)
  • Instruction, enacting ideals (active, inquiry-based teaching)
  • Assessment (purposes, scoring rubrics)

GTA’s Impact on Undergraduates

  • Knowledge, skills gains
  • Retention
  • Attainment
  • Interest
  • Undergraduate self-efficacy

Other basic questions we are exploring

As part of an NSF-funded project, we are testing a model of GTA training that focuses specifically on using computer resources to help GTAs teach technical writing. The main questions we are exploring are:

  • What do GTAs need to teach technical writing successfully?
  • What pre-instruction training is needed?
  • What in-process support is needed?

From historical and preliminary data we know GTAs are unlikely to adopt novel instructional practices that they themselves did not experience as students. This raises interesting questions about the origins of their resistance. Looking through the lens of diffusion of innovation theory (Everett M. Rogers’ work),  we wonder whether these novice post-secondary teachers are resisting change because they: 1) lack the confidence to implement new methods; 2) lack the firsthand experience needed to visualize how to implement it; 3) have not seen it enacted by someone they trust; or 4) some combination of these factors?

While these questions are not part of the NSF proposal specifically, the project DOES provide an opportunity to assess how novice post-secondary teachers enculturate to new teaching methods. We will be asking:

  • Which sources of information and support do new GTAs use most often and most intensively as they develop their teaching practice: near peers, formal training, just-in-time training, or online/digital support? Which are treated as most reliable?
  • How quickly do GTAs adopt technology resources to support teaching? Can GTAs integrate digital supports appropriately and accurately? If not, what are their primary barriers to doing so?
  • How do GTAs’ past experiences and biases affect enculturation to and adoption of evidence-based teaching strategies? Do GTAs’ own past experiences create bias for or against specific teaching methods or practices? For or against nationally recognized principles of practice?

Endpoint goals

We hope to find ways to:

  • Accelerate GTA skills development and adoption of evidence-based instructional practices.
  • Promote and support self-reflective teaching at an earlier career stage.
  • Help GTAs learn to identify and adopt existing proven practices that can solve their specific teaching challenges.

Recruiting Partners?

YES (Go to current listing)

Project Links

 BioTAs Intranet

 BioTAP home page