July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Faculty Development Division
This work-in-progress paper describes the process and initial outcomes of an effort to identify and prioritize content for a newly established GTA training program in a computer science department. As part of an NSF-funded project that aims to transform teaching practices in highly enrolled gateway STEM courses, the computer science (CS) department at a research-focused state institution is working to integrate active learning practices in its CS 1 (freshman level) and CS 2 (sophomore level) courses. The combined courses have enrollments of nearly 1,000 students each semester, with lecture sections of 100-200 students and software lab sections of 25-30 students. Lab sections are led by GTAs, and hence GTA professional development plays a large role in transforming the teaching and learning approaches in these courses.
The CS department at the center of this study is growing rapidly, as the university in which it is housed is devoting significant resources to growing computing programs and emphasizing the importance of computing competencies across majors. As such, the number of GTAs needed to support courses in the CS department is also rapidly increasing, and finding students to fill GTA roles is sometimes difficult. New GTAs are often new graduate students, many of whom are enrolled at a US institution for the first time. Recognizing that nearly all of the CS GTAs (over 75 in total) face similar challenges related to a lack of training and/or experience in college teaching, the department aims to create a department-wide GTA training program.
To understand the main challenges faced by CS GTAs and to inform the development of a GTA training program that makes the most effective use of limited resources (specifically funding, GTA time, and instructor time), the CS department is surveying GTAs, as well as instructors whose courses are supported by GTAs. GTAs are asked what skills they view as most important to their success in fulfilling their GTA responsibilities and their perceived level of preparation for those responsibilities. GTAs’ perceived level of preparation provides a window into their teaching self-efficacy, which can be measured over time to track teaching development . GTAs are also asked to describe what resources (including human) they access in an effort to prepare for their teaching responsibilities. Instructors whose courses are supported by GTAs are asked what they view as primary GTA responsibilities, the skills required to succeed in those responsibilities, and in what areas additional GTA preparation would be most valuable.
This paper will present the findings from analysis of the data collected from surveying CS GTAs and instructors. Analysis will identify common themes across GTA and faculty responses, as well as any relationships between GTA responses and factors such as GTA role (lab, recitation, course level, etc.), demographic information, and level of teaching experience. In addition, the paper will describe initial plans for the structure and content of department-wide GTA professional development as they emerge from analysis of survey results. We suggest that this work-in-progress paper be presented as a poster in order to support in-depth discussion with other participants who are also developing and/or studying GTA professional development programs.
 S.E. DeChenne, L.G. Enochs, and M. Needham, “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Graduate Teaching Assistants Teaching Self-Efficacy,” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 12, No. 4, December 2012.
Nelson, J. K., & Zhong, Y., & Snyder, M. H., & White, E. L. (2021, July), Exploring GTA Skills and Responsibilities to Inform a GTA Professional Development Program in Computer Science Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37142
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