July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered best practices for instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) to support student learning in engineering. This does not necessarily mean that instructional support has diminished as a consequence of the transition to remote learning. In this study, instructional support was explored using quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis. Surveys from over 600 students in sophomore and junior level courses in engineering at a large public institution were collected in the Spring of 2020 and compared to results from similar courses offered prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Likert-scale items, as well as short answer items, that independently measured faculty support and TA support were analyzed in this study.
Initial t-tests indicated that perceptions of faculty support were not significantly different between remote and traditional learning. To consider the possibility that failure to reject the null hypothesis was due to course-by-course variations, additional t-tests were used to compare student perceptions of faculty support across pairs of courses taught in both settings. Post-hoc tests showed that faculty support was significantly higher in the remote learning setting in three of seven pairs of courses and significantly lower in the remote learning setting in the four remaining courses (p < 0.05). Similarly, in considering TA support, an initial t-test indicated that perceptions of TA support were not significantly different in remote learning compared to traditional learning, but in course-by-course comparisons, students believed they were offered significantly higher TA support in remote learning in three pairs of classes and significantly lower TA support in one pair of classes (p < 0.05) with three classes indicating no significant difference.
Students in both settings were also asked to identify one thing that faculty could do and one thing that TAs could do to better support their learning. Inductive coding of these short answer responses revealed that while in traditional learning, students emphasized faculty support in in-class and out of class delivery of materials, in remote learning, the emphasis shifted to needs for support in out of class delivery and out of class interactions. For TAs, student expectations were balanced between in-class delivery and out-of-class interactions in traditional learning but their needs for more out of class interactions dominated their concerns in remote learning. Overall, for faculty, about 20% of students requested greater availability in both remote and in-person settings. For TAs, 44% of students requested greater availability of and access to their TAs in remote learning, compared to 18% in in-person settings.
The analysis of both Likert-scale and short answer data regarding TA and faculty support in this study reinforces the importance of availability of instructional support regardless of setting. As students, TAs, and faculty continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the traditional college education system gone online, the nature of connection differs yet its importance remains the same.
Anderson, M. E., & Wilson, D., & Bai, Z., & Kardam, N., & Misra, S. (2021, July), What Should Teachers Do? Visibility of Faculty and TA Support Across Remote and Traditional Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38049
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