Supporting Pedagogy and Practices of Undergraduate Teaching Assistants in Biology

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Megan Barker, Faculty of Science

Project team: Elizabeth Steves, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2019 to April 2021

Funding: $5,000

Courses addressed: BISC 101 – General Biology

Description: We aim to follow up on our current work supporting teaching assistants in our large introductory biology courses. Currently, we are analyzing findings from our Student Learning Experience grant work, which was an investigation into the experiences, goals, and needs of these graduate student teaching assistants via surveys, observations, and focus groups.

Using what we have learned, and from a broader search of best practices in the field, we hope to develop, implement, and evaluate a teaching-training curriculum integrated directly into the teaching assistant role of our core first-year courses. I aim to implement some aspect of targeted pedagogical training weekly, and setting goals within the teaching assistant (TA) meetings.

Ultimately, I hope that these courses become a central home for TAs in our department to learn about best practices in pedagogy, and build their teaching skillset. To support this goal, one project outcome will be a concise, two-page guide for TAs and supervisors with a short reference.

Questions addressed:

  • What training/support do our TAs currently have, and what do they want?
  • What are best practices in the field, for supporting the needs of TAs?
  • How can we integrate the best practices and TAs needs into our current course?
  • What is the impact of our training on our TAs’ beliefs about teaching and our TAs’ practices?
  • What is the impact of our training on our undergraduate students?

Knowledge sharing: We plan on talking to other instructors of this course and others; talking with departmental grad studies committee to formally integrate this into how we support our TAs. We also hope to present it at a conference (e.g. SABER or similar).