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Leveraging Reflection to Deepen Engineering Graduate Student Instructor Professional Development

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Faculty Development I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1092.1 - 26.1092.18



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Paper Authors


Tershia A. Pinder-Grover University of Michigan

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Tershia Pinder-Grover is an Assistant Director at the Center for Research on Learning in Teaching (CRLT) and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering (CRLT-Engin) at the University of Michigan (U-M). In these roles, she is responsible for teacher training for new engineering graduate student instructors (GSIs), consultations with faculty and GSIs on pedagogy, workshops on teaching and learning, and preparing future faculty programs. Prior to joining CRLT, she earned her B.S. degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the U-M. Her current research interests include examining the effect of instructional technology on student learning and performance and assessing GSIs’ perception of their training.

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Martyn Taylor Haynes II University of Michigan

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Taylor Haynes is currently a teaching postdoc in the Chemistry Department while being involved with the REBUILD program at the University of Michigan. He completed his Ph.D. in 2014 working with Dr. John Montgomery at the University of Michigan working on the development of Nickel-catalyzed coupling processes. Prior to his work in Michigan, Taylor completed his Baccalaureate at the University of California, Irvine. As a teaching post-doctoral fellow, Taylor is heavily involved in education-based research efforts in the chemistry department while also serving as an instructor for the Introductory Organic Chemistry course.

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Leveraging Reflection to Deepen Engineering Graduate Student Instructor Professional DevelopmentAbstractPreparing graduate student instructors (GSI) to teach engineering students requires practical andrelevant training. To what extent do new engineering graduate student instructors reflect on theirpedagogical training and apply the new skills from training to their classroom experiences? Thepurpose of this project is to explore first semester engineering GSIs’ perceptions of theirpedagogical professional development through the lens of Wlodkowski's motivational factors foradult learners (Wlodkowski, 1999). As summarized by Felder, Brent & Prince (2011), there arefive key characteristics for motivating adult learners to engage in professional development [e.g.,expertise of the facilitator, relevance of the topic, choice on how to apply best practices, praxis(action and reflection), and group work].At one large research university, all engineering graduate student instructors (GSIs) are requiredto participate in on-going professional development training during their first term, in addition totheir all-day pedagogical training. For their ongoing professional development GSIs choose oneof the following three options: 1. participation at an advanced practice teaching session, where GSIs deliver a short lesson using active learning, 2. attendance at one pedagogical seminar, or 3. discussion with a peer consultant about feedback gathered from the GSI’s students.All new engineering GSIs are intentionally encouraged to apply what they have learned fromthese professional development opportunities to their current and future teaching, through the useof written reflections that accompany each of these activities. Research on metacognition hasshown gains in student learning, performance, and appreciation for the writing skills needed intheir field (Lovett, 2008; Meizlish, LaVaque-Manty, Silver & Kaplan, 2013). This work aims tobuild upon this body of work by applying reflection to graduate student development.To assess GSIs’ perspectives of their ongoing professional development, we qualitativelyanalyzed the written responses from the pedagogical seminars. The written reflections askedGSIs to answer the following questions: • Compare and contrast the teaching-related strategies that were presented in the workshop commenting upon their effectiveness for helping your students learn the content, skills, and mindsets within engineering. • Select one strategy from the workshop and explain how you can use it in your current or future teaching.We used a thematic analysis to identify patterns in the GSIs’ reflections, allowing us to makemeaningful interpretations and connections between the trends. Since the GSIs’ were able tochoose from 5 different seminars, we analyzed the reflections from each pedagogical seminarseparately to uncover themes unique to each seminar. We also surveyed the GSIs at the end oftheir first teaching term to learn more about the reasons why they chose their particularpedagogical seminar for their ongoing professional development and whether they found it to bevaluable.Due to the wide variety of topics presented in the seminars, GSIs were able to describe how theywould apply the teaching strategies to their own classroom context to varying degrees. Becauseof this, the depth of reflection varied greatly from in-depth discussions to cursory summaries.The proposed paper will summarize key findings from our qualitative analysis and our survey ofnew engineering GSIs. Implications for faculty and faculty developers training new GSIs will bediscussed.Felder, R., Brent, R., & Prince, M. Engineering instructional development: Programs, best practices, andrecommendations. Journal of Engineering Education. 100(1), 89-120.Meizlish, D., LaVaque-Manty, D., Silver, N. & Kaplan, M. (2013). Think Like/Write Like.Changing theConversation about Higher Education, 53-74.Lovett, M. C. (2008). Teaching metacognition: Presentation to the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting[PDF document]. Retrieved from, R. (1999). Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A comprehensive guide for teaching adults. 2nd Ed.New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Pinder-Grover, T. A., & Haynes, M. T. (2015, June), Leveraging Reflection to Deepen Engineering Graduate Student Instructor Professional Development Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24429

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