Changes in TA Beliefs from Teaching Inquiry-Based Activities in Introductory Geology Labs
Inquiry laboratory activities provide opportunities to engage undergraduates in introductory geoscience courses. Often, labs are considered the "hands-on" portion of introductory courses, but activities are a series of instructions and questions in a "cookbook" format that guide students to the right answer, but do not engage their curiosity or pursuit of scientific inquiry. New inquiry activities for introductory geology lab courses were developed in summer 2020 as part of a three-day workshop at EER. We studied the implementation of at least three new labs by teaching assistants (TAs) at three institutions in fall 2020. Previous research has shown that inquiry lab activities enhance undergraduate student learning and can be implemented by TAs with minimal training (1). However, teaching inquiry labs may also serve as professional development for TAs during early teaching experiences and disciplinary enculturation, which play pivotal roles in developing their teaching beliefs and practices (2). Comparison of Teacher Beliefs Interviews (3) from start and end of fall 2020 reveals changes in TA beliefs regarding their roles as instructors and ways they recognize student learning is happening in their class sessions. Interview coding uses five categories from Traditional to Reform-based beliefs (3). Preliminary comparison of interviews from pre- and post- teaching experiences suggests TA beliefs about their role as an instructor shift 1-2 categories towards Reform-based instruction. There appears to be less movement towards Reform-based beliefs in TAs descriptions of how students learn; TA beliefs stay in the same category or less frequently, move one step towards Reform-based instruction. The results from this work will be useful in characterizing the role that teaching experiences play in the evolution of a TA's teaching belief system and can inform the way science TAs are trained.
(1) Ryker & McConnell, 2014; (2) Lane et al., 2019 (3) Luft & Roehrig, 2007