Graduate Teaching Assistant Training at Baylor University - Strategies for Success

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Friday Session


Sharon Browning, Baylor University
Graduate teaching assistants are an integral part of geoscience education at all levels. It is imperative that they have access to training on a variety of issues, including course content, current pedagogical techniques, assessment strategies, student motivation, feedback from both course instructors and students, and mentoring opportunities. Challenges include institutional/departmental, faculty, and graduate student attitudes and motivations towards teaching, awareness of current pedagogy, inexperience, relevant background coursework, and departmental resources. The Geosciences Department at Baylor University utilizes approximately 20-25 graduate teaching assistants per semester in six introductory classes and selected upper-level undergraduate labs that span a rage of geoscience topics. All introductory courses are taught by Geoscience faculty and satisfy a general education lab requirement. the labs associated with these introductory courses are taught by teaching assistants and supervised by a lab coordinator. For many non-science majors, the lab science course is their only formal exposure to geoscience concepts and ideas. Critical thinking and quantitative skills are also often weaker for this group. Baylor provides graduate teaching assistant training for new students during orientation and through resources at the Academy of Teaching and Learning. In addition, the Geosciences Department has departmental training, weekly teaching assistant meetings for specific lab courses, and a written manual of policies and procedures. Feedback from the teaching assistants is sought throughout the semester on lab activities, tests, and assessments. Through these training and feedback opportunities, the Geosciences Department graduate teaching assistants are generally well prepared and consistently receive some of the best student evaluation scores across Baylor Graduate School. This demonstrates that instructional training, regular teaching assistant meetings, and feedback opportunities are important ways to help graduate teaching assistants succeed as instructors, which in turn improved undergraduate education.