June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.1469.1 - 26.1469.14
Teaching Assistant Professional Development through Design: Why They Participate and How They BenefitAt a large Midwestern institution, one goal of the first-year engineering program is to fosterprofessional development, not only of the students enrolled in classes, but of the unit’s teachingassistants (TAs). These undergraduate and graduate students serve in the classroom, gradeassignments, support open lab hours, and attend trainings. Additionally, some TAs choose tospend extra hours developing the spring semester robot design project offered to first-yearengineering students. Participating in this curriculum development not only directly impacts thefirst-year students’ design experience, but also gives the TAs a unique opportunity forprofessional development. They are responsible for all aspects of project development andcreation, including designing the competition scenario, constructing the physical course therobots compete upon, and designing and programming the course control electronics. Thisdevelopment and creation is extremely time-intensive. College students already balance manydifferent life aspects, and yet, every year, a core group of TAs embrace this time-intensivechallenge and excel. This study addresses the following research questions: Why do TAsparticipate in the development and creation of the robot design project? What skills, if any, dothey develop through their participation?TAs were invited to take a survey about designing the robot design project. Quantitativequestions asked about the number of terms spent as a TA and the number of terms spent onvarious project components. Qualitative questions centered on reasons for choosing this activity,benefits, and drawbacks. The TAs that responded represented a variety of engineering majors,including chemical, electrical, and mechanical. The rich data generated illustrates thesestudents’ impetus and professional development.This study provides an initial outline of why some TAs go above and beyond the call of theaverage TA to develop and create the robot design project. The data show they participate for avariety of reasons, such as enjoyment, helping students, and applying their knowledge to aproject outside the classroom. Additionally, some TAs leverage this experience to gain co-opsand internships. They also applied the design skills gained via the project to tasks during theirco-ops or internships. The process is cyclical; they strengthen their skills in the workforce, thenreturn to the first-year program and share what they have learned with others. Drawbacks totheir involvement included the time involved, but at the same time, many TAs specifically citedimproved project management skills. They also feel the time required to develop and create therobot design project and curriculum is well spent, as they enjoy giving back to the program theyparticipated in as first-year students. These findings will be framed as “Tricks of the Trade” tohelp TAs make informed decisions about these types of activities which may be beyond theirrole classroom roles.The TA-identified benefits gained by the design of the physical robot course, electronics, andscenario portray the program’s success in providing professional development opportunities toTAs. This feedback, particularly the descriptions of drawbacks to participation, is being utilizedto improve this TA experience.
Harper, K. A., & Zierden, H. C., & Wegman, K. R., & Kajfez, R. L., & Kecskemety, K. M. (2015, June), Teaching Assistant Professional Development Through Design: Why They Participate and How They Benefit Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24806
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