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Teaching Beliefs of Engineering Graduate Students

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



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Page Numbers

22.1373.1 - 22.1373.2



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Katherine E Winters Virginia Tech

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Katherine Winters is a Dean's Teaching Fellow and PhD candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Her primary research interests center on graduate student motivation. She earned her BS and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Holly Matusovich is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Dr. Matusovich has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She also has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Materials Science with a concentration in Metallurgy. Additionally Dr. Matusovich has four years of experience as a consulting engineer and seven years of industrial experience in a variety of technical roles related to metallurgy and quality systems for an aerospace supplier. Dr. Matusovich’s research interests include the role of motivation in learning engineering as well as retention and diversity concerns within engineering education and engineering as a profession.

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Teaching Beliefs of Engineering Graduate StudentsMany engineering programs are seeking to integrate more hands-on activities and active learningin lower-division courses, which require more facilitation than the traditional large lectures, andmore and more graduate students are assuming teaching responsibilities. In other fields, such ashumanities or basic sciences, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) have assumed significantteaching responsibilities. However, insufficient research has been done in engineering on theexperiences of graduate teaching assistants and their impact on students. The purpose of thisresearch is to provide exploratory data on the teaching beliefs of engineering graduate students.These findings have the potential to help determine what kinds of problems engineering GTAsface and what kinds of training or support are needed to empower GTAs in their teachingresponsibilities.A person’s teaching beliefs are influenced by his or her own experience as a student, by previousteaching experience, and by mentoring experiences. These beliefs then influence the teacher’steaching style. Teaching philosophies range from teacher-centered to student-centered. Usingthis framework, we developed a twenty-item survey to explore GTAs’ teaching philosophiesbased on their perceptions of their own responsibilities and of their students’ responsibilities.The research was conducted a large, land-grant, research-intensive university. The samplepopulation included GTAs that teach undergraduate engineering courses. GTAs that serveprimarily as graders were excluded. With IRB approval, graduate students in six engineeringdepartments were invited to participate. Out of approximately 1700 full-time engineeringgraduate students at the university, it is estimated that approximately 100 GTAs met the selectioncriterion of having “significant instructional responsibilities” beyond grading duties. In additionto the survey items, demographic and background information was collected. There were 54respondents, 50 completing the entire survey, for a response rate of about 50 percent. Femalesrepresented 24 percent of respondents. Seventy percent were Caucasian; 22 percent were Asian.The median experience level was three semesters.The internal consistency of the items used for this analysis was evaluated using Chronbach’salpha. Based on a score of 0.74, we determined the instrument is reliable. Responses wereconverted from Likert options (strongly disagree to strongly agree) to a scale of one-to-four foreach item and then summed. The total scores were then compared to see if various groups weredifferent using one-way ANOVA tests and a 0.05 significance level. We found no difference inrespondents based on sex, semesters of teaching experience, home department, or teachingdepartment. However, there were differences based on what type of course the respondentstaught. GTAs that taught freshman courses in the Engineering Education department or upperdivision courses in their home departments reported teaching beliefs that were significantly morestudent-centered than GTAs that taught core engineering courses or laboratory courses.Implications of the findings will be explored in the poster. Further study is needed to explainhow and why GTA teaching beliefs develop.

Winters, K. E., & Matusovich, H. M. (2011, June), Teaching Beliefs of Engineering Graduate Students Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18931

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