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The effects of practice-based training on graduate teaching assistants’ classroom practices

  • Author(s): Becker, EA
  • Easlon, EJ
  • Potter, SC
  • Guzman-Alvarez, A
  • Spear, JM
  • Facciotti, MT
  • Igo, MM
  • Singer, M
  • Pagliarulo, C
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2017 E. A. Becker et al. Evidence-based teaching is a highly complex skill, requiring repeated cycles of deliberate practice and feedback to master. Despite existing well-characterized frameworks for practice-based training in K–12 teacher education, the major principles of these frameworks have not yet been transferred to instructor development in higher educational contexts, including training of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). We sought to determine whether a practice-based training program could help GTAs learn and use evidence-based teaching methods in their classrooms. We implemented a weekly training program for introductory biology GTAs that included structured drills of techniques selected to enhance student practice, logic development, and accountability and reduce apprehension. These elements were selected based on their previous characterization as dimensions of active learning. GTAs received regular performance feedback based on classroom observations. To quantify use of target techniques and levels of student participation, we collected and coded 160 h of video footage. We investigated the relationship between frequency of GTA implementation of target techniques and student exam scores; however, we observed no significant relationship. Although GTAs adopted and used many of the target techniques with high frequency, techniques that enforced student participation were not stably adopted, and their use was unresponsive to formal feedback. We also found that techniques discussed in training, but not practiced, were not used at quantifiable frequencies, further supporting the importance of practice-based training for influencing instructional practices.

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