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Work in Progress: Engineering Student Instructors, What Are Their Needs and How Can We Best Prepare Them?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Faculty Development Work-in-Progress Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Faculty Development Constituency Committee

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Paper Authors


Tershia A. Pinder-Grover University of Michigan

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Tershia Pinder-Grover is the Director of the Center for Research on Learning in Teaching in Engineering (CRLT-Engin) at the University of Michigan (U-M). She coordinates initiatives for engineering faculty, develops workshops and seminars, and consults with faculty and graduate student instructors (GSIs) on a variety of pedagogical topics. Prior to joining CRLT-Engin, 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 graduate student professional development and the adoption of inclusive teaching practices for engineering instructors.

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Stephanie Marie Kusano University of Michigan

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Stephanie Kusano is an assessment specialist at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at University of Michigan. She has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education, M.S. in Biomedical Engineering, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, all from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include engaged learning, high impact practices, and assessment. Her teaching experience has primarily been with first-year engineering.

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Grenmarie Agresar University of Michigan

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Grenmarie Agresar is an instructional consultant at the Center for Research on Learning in Teaching in Engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M). She earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and Scientific Computation, a M.S. in Bioengineering, a M.A. in Education, and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, all from U-M. She is an experienced instructor (over 7 years to multiple age groups), and her research interests include assessing student-instructor experiences and training.

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This work in progress describes the pilot study for assessing student instructor professional development in the College of Engineering (CoE). Student instructors are essential to the teaching team at many research institutions and their teaching appointments are often the only teaching experiences they have prior to becoming faculty. Historically, there have been calls for improving the professional development of graduate student instructors [1], especially since they can play an important role in improving student retention and inclusion [2].

The CoE at a large public research university requires training for all new student instructors. Separate programs for the undergraduate and graduates students have similar training components on topics such as, leading discussion sections, managing laboratory classes, handling office hours, teaching problem solving, grading, and teaching inclusively. Trainees also practice delivering mock lessons in small groups. At the conclusion of the orientation, student instructors provide written feedback about the program quality. While these program evaluations are useful; they offer a limited perspective. We wanted to know more about their experiences teaching in CoE classrooms and labs, their confidence in their teaching abilities, and their perceptions of the effectiveness of their training to meet their needs.

This study is guided by the following research questions: What are the teaching experiences of new engineering student instructors at the graduate and undergraduate levels in the College of Engineering? How do these experiences vary across their roles? To what extent does the new instructor orientation satisfy the different needs of these instructors, especially as it relates to inclusive teaching practices?

This paper focuses primarily on addressing the second question by discussing results from focus groups with student instructors. The focus group discussion included conversations around student instructors’ teaching experiences and inclusive teaching practices.

Our preliminary analysis indicates some differences between the experiences of graduate and undergraduate student instructors and some discrepancies between the key take-aways that student instructors have regarding inclusive teaching. For feedback, we are interested in sharing the trends with our colleagues to help us refine our programming and our assessment approach.


1. Luft, J. A., Kurdziel, J. P., Roehrig, G. H., & Turner, J. (2004). Growing a garden without water: Graduate teaching assistants in introductory science laboratories at a doctoral/research university. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(3), 211–233. 2. O’Neal, C., Wright, M., Cook, C., Perorazio, T., & Purkiss, J. (2007). The impact of teaching assistants on student retention in the sciences: Lessons for TA training. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(5), 24-29. 3. DeChenne, S. E., Koziol, N., Needham, M., & Enochs, L. (2015). Modeling sources of teaching self-efficacy for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate teaching assistants. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(3), 1-14.

Pinder-Grover, T. A., & Kusano, S. M., & Agresar, G. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Engineering Student Instructors, What Are Their Needs and How Can We Best Prepare Them? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31285

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