PhD Student/College of Social Work
Needs of Graduate Teaching Assistants in Higher Education
Faculty Mentor: Donna Harp Ziegenfuss, Ed.D Associate Librarian, Assistant Head of Scholarship and Education Services
Graduate teaching assistantships can be a positive resource for universities, faculty members, and students. Through graduate teaching assistantships, colleges or universities can reduce a financial burden to hire full-time professors (Weidert, Wendorf, Gurung, & Filz, 2012). Additionally, colleges or universities expect a decrease in teaching workload for faculty members (Park, 2004; Weidert et al., 2012) by allowing graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to cover administrative paper work, checking attendance, preparing class materials, proctoring an exam, grading assignments, and leading small discussions in class. The advantages affect students as well. According to Muzaka (2009), students may more easily access to GTAs than to faculty in order to ask basic questions in regard with class requirements and further explanations on class contents. Students also can learn from different perspectives and approaches by having GTAs (Muzaka, 2009; Park, 2002). In addition, graduate teaching assistant positions can be a platform that GTAs transit from graduate students to instructors while developing their professional identities. In turn, many graduate schools in the United States hire graduate students as GTAs. However, research consonantly reveals that most GTAs are engaged in classes without an appropriate teaching philosophy, instructional strategies, or teaching experiences because of lack of systematic training (Cho, Kim, Sviniki, & Decker, 2011; Fairbrother, 2012). Lack of these preparations hinders GTAs sense of self-efficiency as a teacher and increases the challenges that GTAs encounter such as class management, teaching concerns, student evaluation/grading, student engagement, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to explore the GTAs’ needs related to support and teaching skills in order to nurture them to be competent instructors.
Cho, Y., Kim, M., Sviniki, M. D., & Decker, M. L. (2011). Exploring teaching concerns and characteristics of graduate teaching assistants. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 267-279.
Fairbrother, H. (2012). Creating Space: Maximising the potential of the Graduate Teaching Assistant role.Teaching in Higher Education, 17(3), 353-358.
Muzaka, V. (2009). The niche of graduate teaching assistant (GTAs): Perceptions and reflections. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(1), 1-12.
Park, C. (2004). The graduate teaching assistant (GTA): Lessons from North American experience. Teaching in Higher Education, 9, 349–361.
Weidert, J. M., Wendorf, A. R., Gurung, R. A. R., & Filz, T. (2012). A survey of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. College Teaching, 60, 95-103.