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It’s Not Just What TA's Know: Exploring the Role of Teacher Efficacy among Engineering TA's

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

NEE 2 - Strategies to Improve Teaching Effectiveness

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Joanna Wright University of Washington

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Joanna Wright is an M.Ed. student in Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her education research interests span early childhood through higher education, with a focus on the impact of pedagogical practices and contexts on learning and development.

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Lauren N. Summers University of Washington

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Lauren N. Summers is a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests focus on the potential roles of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, and other political identifiers in determining undergraduate engagement across a variety of majors, including engineering.

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Denise Wilson University of Washington

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Denise Wilson is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests in engineering education focus on the role of self-efficacy, belonging, and other non-cognitive aspects of the student experience on engagement, success, and persistence and on effective methods for teaching global issues such as those pertaining to sustainability.

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Do students explicitly value the self-efficacy of their teaching assistants? If so, how does the self-efficacy of their TAs affect how students engage in their courses? This study explores these two questions in a variety of TA-intensive undergraduate engineering courses through qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted with 30 students from those courses.

Student interviews were first coded to identify references to how important a TA’s self-efficacy was to students in their choices to engage and participate in the learning experience. Almost 50% of students interviewed explicitly spoke to how important it was for TAs to be confident in their teaching. Students’ use of the terms confidence, confident, or self-confident were interpreted to mean self-efficacy given the task-oriented context in which these terms were used.

A second coding pass with the interview data looked at the implications and potential benefits of building teacher self-efficacy among TAs to better serve student learning and engagement. Teachers with high teacher self-efficacy are known to exhibit certain behaviors more often or more effectively than those teachers with lower self-efficacy. Previous research studies have identified these behaviors, allowing the second phase of this study to use these behaviors as a basis for further deductive coding of student interview data. The second phase of this study evaluated the impact and importance of these self-efficacious behaviors as discussed by students in our interview pool. Of those behaviors that result from high teacher efficacy, many students look for indications that the TA puts effort into teaching, teaches with clarity and organization, will support students through difficulty, and demonstrates enthusiasm. Although mentioned by fewer students, other valued teacher efficacy behaviors that emerge from this study include refraining from criticizing student mistakes or knowledge gaps, preparing adequately for class, being willing to experiment instructionally, facilitating small-group work, and being fair. These results reinforce existing research by confirming that content knowledge is only part of what students seek in good teachers, and also provides insight into which behavioral benefits of high teacher efficacy are most salient to undergraduate students in engineering.

Wright, J., & Summers, L. N., & Wilson, D. (2019, June), It’s Not Just What TA's Know: Exploring the Role of Teacher Efficacy among Engineering TA's Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33032

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