The Journal of Graduate Teaching Assistant Development, Volume 9

Key Information

Volume 9, 2002-2003, bound complete issues [ISSN: 1068-6096; 8-by-10-inch; ISBN: 1-58107-185-X] $22.95


The Contents

JTA09coverA Comprehensive Model for Graduate Teaching Assistant Education       5
By Gabriela C. Zapata
This article proposes a blueprint for a comprehensive model for Graduate Teaching Assistants” (GTAs) education based on Lave and Wenger’s (1991) theory of Legitimate Peripheral Participation and on existing research on GTA training and supervision. The model is divided into two components: preservice orientation and in-service continuing education. Each of these entails concrete ways to foster GTAs’ development and growth not only as teachers, but also as scholars, and to legitimize them as academic professionals by providing them with effective and realistic preparation. The final part of the paper describes some of the requisites needed for the proposed model to function successfully and it offers suggestions for its implementation.

The Doctoral Candidate as Pre-Service Faculty: Lessons from a Case Study            13
By Stefka G. Nikolova Eddins and Douglas F. Williams
In this paper we present an alternative case study in which the Ph.D. candidate, in the capacity of a preservice faculty, integrated teaching, mentoring, research, and professional service activities in her dissertation. The pre-service faculty concept meant that during her graduate work, the candidate actively participated in a variety of teaching, mentoring, and other professional activities in which her research, while remaining an integral component of her graduate work, became the vehicle to enhance undergraduate lea171h2g.Specifically, the doctoral candidate mentored an undergraduate research team, while conducting her own scientific research. In the process she learned how to balance her dissertation research needs with those of the students; deal with various student personalities, backgrounds, motivations, learning, and work styles; as well as how to manage limited resources hi order to fulfill the team goals. She also learned how to navigate team dynamics, address leadership, liability, and control issues, resolve conflicts, and counsel students. As part of the experience, she also gained valuable grants writing, service, and professional collaboration skills. Although the case study involved only one participant, the pre-service faculty experience illustrated the potential for merging breadth and depth of scholarship, research, and service.

Supporting Students with Disabilities: What Every Teaching Assistant Should Know          23
By Sheryl Burgstahler and Tracy Jirikowic
As the postsecondary enrollment of students with disabilities increases, teaching assistants (TAs) play an important r6le in assuring that all students, including those with disabilities, have access to course content and activities. This article reviews legal issues and the roles and responsibilities of TAs when working with students who have disabilities. It also describes typical academic accommodations used by students with various types of disabilities and presents teaching strategies that can improve access to course content and materials for all students.

Enhancing the Training of TAs: Understanding and Adapting to Students with Central Auditory Processing Disorders and Visual Disabilities              31
By Pamela L. Gray, Diane S. Krider, and Nancy L. Buerkel-Rothfuss
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) provides “a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” (pp. 32-33). Consequently, teaching assistant (TA) training must include direction for how to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities to enhance learning and avoid conflict/lawsuits that may arise if accommodations are not made. This paper provides information about central auditory processing disorders and visual disabilities, gives instructors ideas that could be incorporated into their classrooms to enhance student learning, and presents activities designed to heighten the instructors’ empathy with the obstacles facing such students.

Enhancing Instruction through Effective Questioning      45
By Edwin G. Ralph
In this article, critical questions about effective questioning in teaching are posed and answered for the purpose of assisting GTAs to enhance their skills in this area. A rationale is advanced, pertinent research is synthesized, and key principles undergirding clear questioning are presented.

Collaborative Curriculum Design for an International Teaching Assistant Workshop           57
By Greta Gorsuch, Kathy Stevens and Sherri Brouillette
In universities across the United States, specialized programs have been developed to help international teaching assistants (1TAs) prepare for their duties as chemistry, biology, math, and physics instructors for university freshman. Some of these programs are intensive and short, which may pose problems for ITAs as they struggle to develop the language skills they need to be comprehensible. In a short program, ITAs may not have enough and varied opportunities to develop their language skills, bz intensive programs, ITAs may become tired and demotivated, which may have a negative impact on learning. This report describes a collaborative language-focused curriculum design project hr a three week 1TA training workshop which attempts to deal with the shortcomings of such short and extensive programs. Tire theoretical underpinnings, and the structure and process of the curriculum design effort is detailed. Specifically, workshop instructor input and involvement was strongly encouraged, which created a program that provided valuable language instruction attuned to the instructors” increasingly refined sense of the ITAs’ needs. Data from ITA and instructor evaluations is included.

Building Confidence and a Positive Classroom community: An Agenda for Launching a Course     69
By Michael Plokin
The first meeting of a class ideally begins the process of building a community of students and introduces the class to the course material and the instructor. Students frequently decide how much respect to accord the instructor immediately after meeting them. For GTAs, who occupy a difficult position intermediate between professors and students, it is especially important to be perceived as competent and knowledgeable. This article provides advice for GTAs on how to organize and what to include in the first meeting of a class. A sample outline for a first class is provided.

Development of a Peer Based_ Department-Specific Teaching Assistant Manual and Orientation              75
By N. F. Temple, L. A. Isaac, B. A. Adams, D. L. Haughland, C. Englestoft and P. F. J. Garcia
Graduate students often fill the role of researcher and teacher during their academic careers. They may receive training in the skills necessary for research but may not receive any formal training for teaching. It is important that effective teaching skills be developed during graduate school because these early classroom experiences predict more about teaching habits than any other formative period. As well, graduate teaching assistants are important for the learning experiences of undergraduates. In response to the lack of current training programs within tire Biology Department at the University of Victoria, we initiated the BioTA (Biology Teaching Assistant) project. It is a peer-based, department-specific initiative that includes a resource manual and orientation day. This project has received positive feedback and is being used as a model for creating similar resources in other departments.

What’s the Problem? A New Perspective on ITA Communication               81
By Julie Damron
This article describes a study that used focus groups and an exit survey to assess tile attitudes of undergraduate students toward communicating with their international teaching assistants. The results of the study show that a lack of willingness on the part of students to communicate with their nonnative English-speaking instructors may be problematic for the students as well as for their international TAs. This article concludes with a discussion of possible solutions to the problem at hand.

HOW Would YOU Handle this Situation: Teaching Assistant Responses to an Ethics Workshop      89
By Miriam Rosalyn Diamond
Teaching Assistants often need direction in a number of areas — including ways of interacting with students in an appropriate and ethical manner. To prepare them to handle situations that they are likely to face, a workshop was designed and presented as part of a training session prior to the start of their teaching assignment. Immediate feedback on the program indicated that it increased TA awareness of the dilemmas they could face, as well as considerations to employ when choosing a course of action. End of semester comments indicate that attendees found the session enhanced their confidence to manage situations of ethical concern wisely.

Preparing Future Professors for Their Teaching Roles: Success Strategies from a Canadian Teaching Certification Program                101
By Dieter J. Schinwetter and K. Lynn Taylor
Across North America, universities have implemented programs to prepare future professors for their teaching roles. The study described how this paper identifies the critical characteristics of a Certification how Higher Education Teaching (CHET) program at a Canadian research-intensive university. A total of 33 Ph.D. students enrolled in the CHET program completed a questionnaire consisting of a series of closed- and open-ended questions designed to assess the effectiveness of the current CHET program and to identify areas for continuing program development. The results of this study revealed a number of critical characteristics of the CHET program. First, the incentives or recruitment strategies that draw graduate students to enroll in such programs include participating alongside academic faculty in professional development programs, personal mailings from the service unit, and referrals by current participants. Second, the factors that determine participants’ application to the program are intrinsic (their desire to improve teaching) and extrinsic (official teaching certification and official statement on their university transcripts stating the completion of the program). Third, the current needs of participants focus on aspects of teaching, including course design and classroom management. Fourth, the components of CHET that have the most impact on learning include workshops, teaching requirements, and opportunities to interact with other CHET participants. Strategies suggested for program development include providing easier access to teaching mentors and teaching practica, increasing support for writing components, diversifying workshop times and dates, and providing more discipline-specific workshops.

The Teaching Assistants’ Online support System: Real Help for Real Needs           111
By Jill D. Jenson
Although the need for effective graduate teaching assistant training has been recognized and discussed for decades, many TAs continue to shoulder total responsibility for undergraduate courses they have not been adequately trained to teach. The author describes a low-cost, technology-based training method to help TAs, particularly those teaching a specific course for the first time, achieve success. Evaluation by TAs who used the system show that other institutions facing a lack of time, money, or personnel for TA training may find that developing a customized online support system helps meet some of their TAs’ training needs as well.

Mentoring and Support for GTAs in ESL Programs: An Exploratory Study of Current Practices       121
By Sara Cushing Weigle and John M. Muphy
Many graduate programs in Applied Linguistics/Teaching English as a Second Language (AL/TESL) provide opportunities for degree candidates to teach courses for pre-matriculated and matriculated English as a second language (ESL) students through graduate teaching assistant (GTA) appointments. While such assistantships can be beneficial to graduate students, academic departments, and ESL learners, their benefits are more likely to be realized if sufficient mentoring support is available to GTAs in AL/TESL programs. Little information exists about the degree to which such support is available in North American graduate programs. This paper describes results of a survey that provides baseline information on this subject. Topics featured include: characteristics of programs that use GTAs, GTA workload, nature of GTA mentoring and supervision, and respondents’ satisfaction with GTA mentoring systems.

Learning from Others: Classroom Case Stories for Graduate Teaching Assistants                135
By David E. Meel
Case stories are tools for helping graduate students become competent teachers of mathematics and statistics. A case story is a narrative, which explicates a realistic, engaging learning situation in order to contribute authenticity to classroom discussions, emotionally and cognitively involve students, serve as a bridge between theory and practice, and promote discourse. This paper presents four reality-based, case stories that address issues such as student accusations, cheating, disruptive students, and failing students. In addition, commentaries are provided that draw from research why the problematic situations might arise and practical suggestions for dealing with them.

On Being a Graduate Teaching Assistant                149
By Michael DeCesare
Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) have been consistently and widely employed on college campuses for several decades, but not much has been heard from them about the difficult role they play, h_ this essay, 1 use personal experiences to illustrate three major problems with the professor-TA relationship. They are 1) the absence of consistent and meaningful discussion about teaching, 2) the exploitation of some TAs by the professors for whom they work, and 3) the uneasy situation created when TAs have more teaching experience than the professors for whom they work. I describe the emergence and consequences of each of these problems, and provide examples of how each has impacted me. In addition to offering specific recommendations for how each might be eliminated, I suggest that the academy abandon both its overemphasis on research and its relative neglect of teaching. More communication and collaboration between professors and their TAs will go a long way toward solving the three problems.

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