While significant research supports the use of interactive strategies to improve learning and engagement in STEM, translating the research to implementation of evidence-based practices in university STEM courses remains a challenge. In an effort to address that challenge, we have implemented a network of small faculty development groups within several STEM programs at a single university. Each group is led by a faculty member within the STEM program in which it operates, and the group leader has autonomy in recruiting participants. During the past two years of the project, some leaders have chosen to include graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) among the members of their groups. This paper explores the experiences of GTAs in in one teaching development group (operating within the “X” program) in which GTAs have played a significant role.
The X teaching development group was has been active since fall 2014. The group has two leaders, both of whom participated in a semester of training prior to forming the group; this training included readings in pedagogical research and self-study reflections on their own teaching. The teaching development groups formed through this project meet regularly (anywhere from once per week to once per month) during the academic year. Through the meetings, group members learn about evidence-based techniques and identify techniques to try in their courses. Members are asked to try a new technique in one or more courses, share their experience with the group, and reflect on how to revise the technique for future implementation.
A case study was generated to analyze the group X’s functioning. Data collection has taken place through meeting recordings, written notes from group leaders, and interviews. Meetings of all group leaders are held monthly and are recorded and transcribed. At meetings, group leaders are asked to complete written “check-ins” describing the activities of their group, and any significant successes and/or challenges. Additionally, group leaders and participants are interviewed annually; the interviews are also recorded and transcribed. The documents were coded for instances describing the work of the GTAs and their role in the group.
The leaders of the X teaching development group recruited both faculty members and GTAs to participate in the group. Four GTAs have been active in the group at various times. The full X TDG meets on a monthly basis, and the GTAs have an additional meeting with the group leaders each month. Check-ins from group leaders indicate that a primary goal of the group is to support GTA instructional skills, and participating GTAs indicate that they hope to develop teaching skills that will help them in academic careers. Beyond improving their teaching, each GTA is working on a discipline-based educational research project with mentoring from one of the group leaders. Based on a grassroots effort from the GTAs, the group holds journal club meetings to discuss recent results in education research. The full paper will further describe the role of GTAs in the X group model and how participating GTAs perceive the teaching development experience.
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