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Using A Website And Wiki As A Support Tool For Teaching Assistants

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Laboratory Development in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1317.1 - 15.1317.11



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Paper Authors

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Alexander Ganago University of Michigan

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Inger Bergom University of Michigan

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Britton Wolfe Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using a website and wiki as a support tool for teaching assistants


Employing students as teaching assistants (TAs) in laboratory sections of large courses reduces faculty’s teaching commitments and provides valuable teaching experience for future faculty. However, it also presents challenges, such as inexperienced TAs and high turnover between semesters. New tools are needed to ensure high quality of lab instruction, consistent across all sections of a large course, as well as from one semester to the next. We have studied the effectiveness of one such tool, a website created to support TAs who teach laboratory sections of two large introductory electrical engineering (EE) courses. Our findings suggest high effectiveness of the website as a repository of established reference information, which is extremely helpful for beginning instructors because it allows them to learn the lab procedures, foresee student questions, and consistently grade lab reports. At the same time, we have found a reluctance of TAs to use the wiki component by editing or adding information to it. Focus groups have revealed the causes of this reluctance, which we discuss in this report.


The use of student teaching assistants (TAs) offers economic benefits to universities and departments by allowing them to reduce faculty’s teaching commitments in introductory courses. Furthermore, it provides TAs with teaching experience, which is especially valuable for students who may desire to become faculty1. At the same time, having students teach laboratory and/or discussion sections in undergraduate classes presents challenges to providing high-quality, consistent undergraduate education. High TA turnover between semesters, a lack of teacher training, and varying levels of motivation to teach are among the factors that complicate this system and can erode the quality of undergraduate education.

To address these common challenges, it is important to ask: “What tools or support can institutions provide that will help TAs learn about teaching and improve their teaching practice?” Research indicates that perceived support and access to teaching resources increases self- efficacy, or confidence in one’s own ability to teach2, 3, which has been shown to improve student achievement and motivation in the classroom4 – 8. We have investigated how and to what extent a website created for TAs as lab instructors can provide this support.

Ganago, A., & Bergom, I., & Wolfe, B. (2010, June), Using A Website And Wiki As A Support Tool For Teaching Assistants Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16856

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