Communication/College of Humanities
Preparing Graduate Teaching Associates: Developing a Course to Advance Online Pedagogy Knowledge
Faculty Mentor: Ann Darling - Communication/College of Humanities
All Graduate Teaching Assistants/Associates (GTAs) in the Department of Communication are required to enroll in COMM 6090 (Teaching the College Communication Curriculum) during their first semester of teaching at the University of Utah. This course is an excellent platform for new instructors in particular because it exposes them to communication education theory and practical teaching strategies/approaches for teaching university-level students; the course also requires several practical assignments such as course development and composing a teaching philosophy, which can help develop a teacher’s style and identity. The Department of Communication is beginning to increase the amount of online and hybrid course offerings. In light of this, my project focuses on designing a short course for GTAs that aids in instructing/developing effective online teaching practices.
Young and Bippus (2008) pointed out that the “teacher preparation of GTAs is a critical factor in improving the quality of instruction in higher education” (p. 116). For my project, I would like to address the need forcontinued teacher development by creating a practicum course for GTAs that focuses on online teaching. The practicum would be used to facilitate the growth of instructors in the department and ensure that there is an ongoing dialogue between mentors and GTAs regarding contemporary online teaching methods, trends, and strategies in teaching online courses. A course faculty supervisor or an experienced GTA (with at least 3 years of higher education teaching experience) would lead the practicum, depending on departmental availability. By opening up the position to experienced GTAs, several important opportunities are presented: (a) leadership development and performance of service for a department, and (b) a constant flow of experienced GTA applicants to fill the position yearly, both of which could prove useful to graduate students’ seeking to further their experience as mentors in order to enrich their vitas in preparation for job searches in tenure-track positions.
This project is designed with intentions to aid the Department of Communication prepare GTAs that are able to teach either hybrid or online courses. Furthermore, knowledge of online pedagogy and evidence of the ability (or experience) of teaching online courses is desired by academic employers. For GTAs that intend to pursue jobs in academia, this course demonstrates their engagement with the online learning environment, thus making the GTA more marketable as they apply for academic teaching positions. Additionally, the knowledge presented in the practicum may be transferrable and adaptable for other departments who seek to provide training/development of their GTAs. Finally, the practicum furthers the University’s commitment to “improve individual teaching skills” (University Teaching Committee, 2012).
The proposed practicum will be assessed in the following ways: (a) examination of the participants’ teaching evaluations over the course of an academic year, (b) discussions with individual course directors (who observe GTA teaching in the department), and (c) feedback from the enrolled/involved students to ascertain how the practicum had (or has not) furthered their personal development as an instructor.