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Chemistry Teaching Assistant Professional Development
The purpose of this qualitative investigation was to better understand teaching assistants' (TAs') perceptions of training in a guided inquiry undergraduate general chemistry laboratory context. The training was developed using existing TA training literature and informed by situated learning theory. TAs engaged in training prior to teaching (25 hours) and attended weekly meetings throughout the year (60 hours). Assessment of training utilized a constructivist framework to understand TAs' perceptions of training in supporting their implementation of guided inquiry in the laboratory. Participants included 20 graduate TAs and 8 undergraduate TAs of varying teaching experience. Data collection included three open-ended surveys across the academic year and two semi-structured interviews with a purposefully sampled subset of TAs. Data were analyzed using systematic data analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Results indicated different aspects of the training were helpful for different subgroups of participants. For example, going over logistics and completing the experiments were most helpful for TAs with no previous teaching experience while discussing learning theory was least helpful for TAs whose future career goals were research-focused. Analyzing participants' experiences and perceptions through a situated learning theory lens suggested TAs with little prior teaching experience appreciated the authentic experiences (e.g., experiments and grading) provided by the training. The results of the study suggest TA training should address prior experiences, particularly language and teaching, as well as the larger context of research and future careers. Future research will focus on examining how TAs learn within a situated training and how that impacts TA beliefs, practices, and student learning.
The purpose of this investigation was to explore changes in undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants' (TAs') content knowledge and beliefs about teaching within the context of an inquiry-based laboratory course. TAs received professional development (PD), which was informed by the TA training literature base and was designed for TAs implementing a guided inquiry approach to general chemistry laboratory instruction. TAs engaged in ∼20 h of presemester PD and ∼30 h of weekly follow-up PD during the semester. The study utilized a multiple-methods approach within a social constructivist framework to assess changes in the TAs. Participants included eight graduate TAs and five undergraduate TAs. Data collection included TA pre-PD, post-PD, and semester-end surveys and two interviews of a subset of participants. The quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive and nonparametric statistics, and the qualitative data were analyzed using systematic data analysis. The results indicate that TAs' content knowledge significantly improved following the PD (mean = 80.22, standard deviation = 11.80) (Z = ?2.346, p = 0.019) and was maintained over the semester. Following PD, the TAs shifted their beliefs to be more aligned with inquiry-based instruction. The results of this investigation suggest that TA previous experience and teaching students in an inquiry-based lab may influence TAs' beliefs. Future research will focus on examining the impact of TAs on student outcomes within a guided inquiry approach to general chemistry laboratory instruction. © 2016 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.
The purpose of this investigation was to explore changes in teaching assistants' (TAs) content knowledge, perceptions of their role, and perceptions of the effectiveness of a professional development following professional development. The professional development was informed by the K-12 professional development and TA training literature bases as well as situated learning theory. It was designed for TAs implementing a project-based guided inquiry approach to General Chemistry laboratory instruction. The professional development was assessed using a sequential mixed methods approach. Participants included 8 graduate TAs and 5 undergraduate TAs. Data collection included TA pre-, post-, and delayed-post surveys and post-and delayed-post interviews. Data were analyzed using t-tests and systematic data analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Results indicate TAs' content knowledge significantly improved following the professional development (M=80.2%, t(11) = 2.20, p =.025) and was maintained over the semester. By the end of the semester, the majority of TAs perceived their roles to include facilitating student learning (61.5%) and helping students act like scientists (53.4%). TAs cited modeling, performing experiments, and discussing logistics as the most helpful professional development components. TAs with no teaching experience and low content knowledge prior to the professional development had more malleable beliefs compared to TAs with previous teaching experience. The results of this investigation suggest situated learning theory may be an effective professional development model for TAs teaching reforms-based general chemistry lab courses. Further, TA previous experience, confidence, content knowledge, and self-efficacy may influence the extent to which professional development changes TAs beliefs. Future research will focus on examining TA self-efficacy, TA practice, and TA impact on student outcomes following implementation of professional development to support a project-based guided inquiry approach to general chemistry laboratory instruction.