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Graduate Teaching Assistants Views of Their Own Teaching Practice Competence

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Training and Mentoring of Graduate Teaching Assistants

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.648.1 - 23.648.13



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Paper Authors


Rachel Louis Kajfez Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Rachel Louis Kajfez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University where she specialized in construction. Currently, Rachel is a Dean’s Teaching Fellow, is a Departmental Ambassador, and is actively involved in ASEE. Her current research interests include graduate student motivation and identity development.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Graduate Teaching Assistants Views of Their Own Teaching Practice CompetenceGraduate teaching assistants (GTAs) serve a variety of roles in engineering classrooms includingprimary instructor, lab supervisor, grader, classroom assistant, and more. Althoughresponsibilities vary, the importance of GTAs to undergraduate students’ learning experiences isoften quite high. Therefore, it is important that GTAs be appropriately trained for theirclassroom roles. Developing and improving such training in meaningful ways requiresunderstanding GTA experiences, in their own words and from their own perspectives. To date,little is known about GTA experiences. Even less is known about GTA views on theircompetence, and literature shows that competence beliefs are particularly important in teachingexperiences in general. This study specifically examines the competence views of GTAsinvolved in first-year engineering programs with regard to their knowledge and application ofteaching practices or pedagogy. The research is framed in self-determination theory where thethree basic needs of competence, relatedness, and autonomy foster motivation. Note that thispaper focuses on only one part of teaching competence, i.e., knowledge of teaching practices.To begin to understand GTAs’ views of their teaching practice competence, interviews wereconducted with GTAs at a variety of institutions selected because they have common first-yearengineering programs, i.e., all engineering students take the same introductory engineeringcourse. For this paper, five qualitative interviews have been analyzed, each from a differentinstitution. The interviews were approximately one hour long and were conducted over thephone. They were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis. A case study approachwas used to analyze the results where open coding was the main analysis technique.Based on the analysis, GTAs report little to no training on teaching practices in their first-yearengineering programs, but they do indicate that training is provided through other venues at theuniversity. Many comment that basic training is required at the university level before one’s firstterm teaching but no formal training is required afterwards. They do receive training on the“what” of teaching (the content), but the “how” of teaching (teaching approaches and practices)is often overlooked. This paper will expand on these finding including recommendations forimproving GTA teaching practice competence. As the field of engineering education continuesto develop, the GTAs, who are, in many cases, future educators and the first face studentsencounter in their engineering journeys, need to develop competence in the “what” and the“how” of teaching to ensure future engineers are getting the best education possible.

Kajfez, R. L., & Matusovich, H. M. (2013, June), Graduate Teaching Assistants Views of Their Own Teaching Practice Competence Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19662

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