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R A D U A T E T E A C H I N G A S S I S T A N T
R E P O R T
The 2003 Graduate Teaching Assistant Orientation and Ongoing Development Survey was conducted online in the summer of 2003. This biennial survey is part of the Graduate School's ongoing use of assessment results for the improvement of GTA training and development activities, for the purpose of assisting departments in their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their GTAs. Forty-two (42) departments submitted completed surveys in 2003. At the time of the survey, these 42 departments had 252 graduate teaching assistants, individually approved by the Graduate School as meeting the SACS 18-hour requirement.
The survey consisted of three main sections: initial departmental activities for GTAs prior to stepping into the classroom, ongoing GTA development and supervisory activities, and planned changes for 2003-2004. These activities do not include The University’s Annual Workshop for GTAs, whose effectiveness is assessed by a combination of objective and subjective measures, but represents what departments do individually to prepare their GTAs for teaching responsibility.
ORIENTATION ACTIVITIES Before/During First Semester as GTA
The departments reported the following orientation and initial training activities prior to and during the first semester of a GTA’s teaching responsibility.
Courses in Teaching Methods
In-class Experience and Supervision
Departments were asked whether they also provide the following: additional workshops, videos, syllabi, handouts, handbook/manual, or lecture materials. All but four departments provide at least two (2) of these teaching aids; the majority (70%), provide three or more. Additional training and materials such as preparing digitized teaching samples, practicing writing teaching plans, giving teaching demonstrations critiqued by supervisor and peers, and learning current theoretical teaching concepts are included in the department of Modern Languages and Classics.
Looking specifically at the twenty-nine (29) departments that do not offer a specific teaching course, twenty-six (26) provide syllabi, twenty-five (25) provide handouts, twenty-one (21) require mentors, thirteen (13) provide alternate workshops, ten (10) provide lectures, eight (8) provide a handbook, and four (4) provide videos. It should be noted that the GTAs in some departments such as Geography and Biology oversee students working on established laboratory assignments, and much of their interaction with students is devoted to answering questions on a one-to-one basis; they are not responsible for full-length lecture materials. More experienced GTAs and faculty in these lab settings, however, always supervise GTAs. History and Anthropology are also examples of this situation. In History, GTAs conduct only discussion sections of large survey courses under the direct supervision of professors who retain overall responsibility for the course. For History and Anthropology GTAs to have sole responsibility for classes is rare, and only if they are doctoral students who already have completed their comprehensive examinations. Anthropology GTAs may give a lecture or two or conduct one-hour section meetings, but this is at the discretion of the supervisory professor.
ONGOING DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES After First Semester as GTA:
Center for Teaching and Learning
Evaluating Progress and Performance
Other Evaluation Processes
Departmental Opportunities Provided to Enhance GTA Development:
More than half of the departments provide three or more of the ongoing GTA development activities listed above. Outstanding examples include Accounting, Biological Sciences, English, Management and Marketing, Modern Languages and Classics, and Women’s Studies, with each of these departments providing six (6) or more ongoing training activities.
PLANNED CHANGES FOR 2003-2004
Departments listed the following changes for the immediate future to assist their GTAs: increasing mentoring/supervision (15); having more class visits by faculty members and/or veteran GTAs (14); refining the mentoring process (13); expanding teaching evaluations (10); having more meetings with GTAs (9); providing colloquia or seminars on teaching (6); developing a department handbook or manual for GTAs that is more discipline-specific than the Graduate School's "Graduate Assistant Guide " (6) (http://www.graduate.ua.edu/ga_guide/index.html); team teaching (4); developing teaching evaluations (3); providing an optional course on teaching (3); rotating faculty members in charge of GTAs (3); assembling a task force or committee to address GTA issues (2), and greater incorporation of computer-based instruction (1).
The most frequently considered changes center on supervisory issues: having more class visits by faculty members, increasing mentoring/supervision, and refining the mentoring process. More skillful mentoring of GTAs continues to be a primary focus of faculty members who supervise GTAs.
SELECTED IMPROVEMENTS Since the 2001 Survey:
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