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Development Of A Pedagogically Focused Course For Engineering Graduate Teaching Assistants

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.413.1 - 13.413.8



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Paper Authors

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Rocio Chavela Guerra Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Monica Cox Purdue University

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Heidi Diefes-Dux Purdue University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Development of a Pedagogically-Focused Course for Engineering Graduate Teaching Assistants


Graduate teaching assistants perform an important role at higher education institutions in the United States. Many universities and colleges host formal programs to enhance these graduate students’ teaching skills. Such programs are needed since graduate teaching assistants who receive training, mentoring, and feedback from faculty about their teaching have been found to demonstrate higher self-esteem in their teaching abilities and to provide higher quality instruction within undergraduate courses. Graduate teaching assistant training courses range from campus-wide initiatives, with more organizational and administrative focuses and purely decontextualized teaching methods courses, to content-based discipline specific modules. Since engineering graduate teaching assistants’ have training needs specific to their teaching responsibilities, courses focusing on pedagogy within engineering are desired.

This paper describes the development of a pedagogically-focused engineering education course based on elements of the “How People Learn” framework. The course, “Effective Teaching of Engineering: Linking Theory to Practice,” was first implemented in fall 2007, at a large Midwestern Research I university to provide engineering graduate teaching assistants an opportunity to extend their teaching professional development. The course learning objectives include developing knowledge of effective teaching practices, establishing an engineering “community of teachers” during interactions with engineering faculty and peers, producing personal deliverables that allow reflection upon relationships between pedagogy and engineering, and receiving formative feedback about teaching within engineering courses.

Some of the topics in this one-credit graduate level seminar included “How People Learn” framework principles, characteristics of millennial students, model-eliciting activities, formative feedback, and effective teaching methods in engineering. Through activities such as journaling, creation of concept maps, development of teaching philosophy statements, and analyses of a course syllabus, course participants noted how their ideas about effective teaching evolved during the semester. Strengths and weaknesses of the course will be discussed in the paper as well as elements that may be included within future iterations of the course.


Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) perform an important role at higher education institutions in the United States. The tenure race at large research universities and the increasing number of students demanding higher education around the 1960’s have been two of the main components for the growing reliance on GTAs for undergraduate instruction. While accomplishing the mission of relieving some of the faculty’s teaching

Chavela Guerra, R., & Cox, M., & Diefes-Dux, H. (2008, June), Development Of A Pedagogically Focused Course For Engineering Graduate Teaching Assistants Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3989

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