A Training Framework for Graduate Teaching Assistants in Engineering Programs

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Salem, Deena
Graduate Teaching Assistants, Tutorials, Labs, Grading
This project proposes a professional development framework that encompasses multidimensional institutional support to graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to enhance the level of their pedagogical knowledge and skills. This framework will provide institutional stakeholders with a tool to anticipate the essential needs for GTA support and tailor needed professional development activities to heighten the quality of their undergraduate teaching practices. Many of these GTAs will provide Canada with a pool of future faculty members who will be key players in the national higher education system in the near future; their pedagogical competence will thus be reflected in their teaching and instructional practices. For the implementation of this project, I ran a training needs assessment, in which I collected data from faculty members and students using a faculty survey and faculty, undergraduate and graduate student interviews. The needs assessment showed a wide spectrum of training needs: learning and assessment theories, evaluation techniques, language barriers, cultural differences, communication skills, stage fright, and professionalism. Informed by the training needs assessment and the available literature on the pedagogical professional development of GTAs, I developed a multidimensional framework, Teaching Assistants Professional Development (TAPD) program, which was adapted from Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. This model eencompasses five dimensions: individual, microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. The proposed framework identifies the pedagogical needs of GTAs and provides tools for meeting these needs in order to enhance the quality of undergraduate teaching practices and responsibilities. Mapping TAPD to the institutional available training options showed a need for departmental training programs that support the GTAs’ pedagogical content knowledge in a relatively short period of time and starts a community of practice among the GTAs. The project was implemented for two consecutive years in four departments, and plans for future trainings are laid. The main limitation of disseminating these departmental training programs is the financial commitment the departments must incur to have it as a mandatory training. I appended this project document with a bibliography that includes a comprehensive collection of seminal work that tackles different perspectives of teaching assistants’ professional development.
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