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Master Graduate Teaching Fellows: A Pilot to Improve Science Teaching VIP K-16 Math Science Partnership Jennifer Frank, David May, Nancy Shapiro University.

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Presentation on theme: "Master Graduate Teaching Fellows: A Pilot to Improve Science Teaching VIP K-16 Math Science Partnership Jennifer Frank, David May, Nancy Shapiro University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Master Graduate Teaching Fellows: A Pilot to Improve Science Teaching VIP K-16 Math Science Partnership Jennifer Frank, David May, Nancy Shapiro University System of Maryland Spencer Benson, Sue Bilek University of Maryland, College Park

2 A mismatch “There is a ‘mismatch’ that exists across disciplines between graduate student expectations, training practices employed by academic departments, and actual career opportunities. …” Student expectations Academic training Career opportunities

3 A mismatch (continued) “… While graduate students are predominantly trained for careers in research universities, such faculty positions are in short supply. Students often do not have a clear idea of other career paths that exist, nor are they well trained for the faculty positions they seek, insofar as their training in good teaching practices is minimal or lacking altogether.” Preparing Future Faculty in the Sciences and Mathematics: A Guide for Change; Pruitt-Logan, Gaff, and Jentoft (2002)

4 A new program with this purpose: Enhance the capacity for teaching excellence among graduate students in the sciences through: ◦ intensive professional development ◦ peer mentoring

5 Pilot program description The following slides describe: ◦ The context ◦ The MGTFs ◦ Peer mentoring ◦ Innovative aspects

6 Pilot Program: the context The context: Three existing entry-level courses (2 in Biology, 1 in Chemistry) ◦ large numbers of first-year undergraduates ◦ 30 Graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) ◦ 3 course coordinators (departmental staff) Program direction: Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) ◦ Campus center for support of faculty and TAs ◦ Director of CTE was director of this pilot program

7 Pilot Program: the MGTFs The centerpiece: Six Master Graduate Teaching Fellows (MGTFs) ◦ Grant-funded fellowships ◦ MGTFs were experienced TAs in these courses Special training and experiences for MGTFs: ◦ UNIV 798a, Introduction to University Teaching: a special course in teaching and learning at the college level (open to all students), taught by CTE director ◦ Bi-weekly meetings with CTE director ◦ Structured, multi-faceted experiences in mentoring and supporting other TAs…

8 Pilot Program: mentoring MGTFs partnered with TAs by: ◦ Mentoring new TAs ◦ Providing direct support to struggling TAs ◦ Administering mid-term/end-term TA evaluations ◦ Running weekly TA meetings, with support of course coordinators ◦ Revising lab manuals and other instructional materials ◦ Developing rubrics for grading student work ◦ Designing and delivering professional development workshops for all STEM TAs

9 Innovative Aspects of the MGTF Program Utilization of peer mentors to provide advice and support in teaching STEM courses Two levels of mentoring – TAs by MGTFs and MGTFs by faculty within the Center for Teaching Excellence Feedback and consultation as a mentoring technique Reduce stress/workload on MGTF by awarding a one year graduate fellowship Focus on STEM inquiry instruction with undergraduate students

10 Data Collection and Analysis Program impact was studied in four areas: (1) MGTF understanding and application of principles related to inquiry and the scholarship of teaching and learning, (2) MGTF effectiveness as peer mentors to novice TAs, (3) classroom performance of novice TAs, and (4) broader TA professional development on campus Analyses were triangulated across multiple data sources collected during the one-year pilot program

11 Data Sources MGTF, TA, and Course Coordinator Interviews (semi- structured) TA Teaching Observations (twice-semester feedback/consultation model) TA Evaluations of MGTFs (post-survey) TA Evaluations of Professional Development Workshops (post-survey) Course Artifacts (revised lab manuals, grading rubrics) MGTF Artifacts (initial applications, journal entries, reflective papers, final reports)

12 Findings: MGTF Growth in Inquiry and Teaching and Learning DOCUMENTING SHIFTS IN PERSPECTIVES: Regarding selves as seasoned and comfortable in TA role → Being willing to take risks and try new approaches in teaching Viewing teaching as an insular activity → Valuing peer networks and communities of practice Sharing tips, following intuition, and using common sense → Gaining deeper understanding of the scholarship of teaching and learning Seeing TA role as facilitator of a faculty member’s curriculum → Developing ownership for instruction and student learning Teaching based on own learning style and preferences → Reaching students with diversity of learning styles Seeing teacher at center of learning → Seeing students at center of learning Conveying content → Helping students relate scientific concepts and processes to their own experiences to enhance understanding

13 Findings: TA-to-TA Peer Mentoring Most important function for novice TAs— confidence building Most important function for experienced TAs—helping them become more effective teachers Role in fostering a more positive climate for STEM teaching in their departments

14 Findings: Mentored TA Classroom Performance Mean increases on 9 of 12 measures between first and second MGTF observations Significant positive changes: TA ability to articulate the goals of the lab, TA ability to explain the steps of the lab to the students, TA ability to link the broader relevance of the lab to the lecture Limitations: internally developed instrument without established reliability/validity; cannot interpret findings as caused by effects of mentorship

15 Findings: TA Professional Development Designing PD for other TAs was seen as a challenging and beneficial activity by the MGTFs (opportunity to apply mentoring skills in a broader setting) All five workshops received consistently high ratings from TA participants (highest marks on participation activities and question/answer periods; lowest marks on formal presentations and handouts/resources) Participating TAs saw primary benefits in having the opportunity to “compare notes” and “share knowledge” with fellow TAs Challenges: low attendance, timing, lack of effective incentives to encourage and reward participation

16 Unexpected Findings Fellowship (including summer funding) “legitimized” student time and effort to focus on teaching Impact of peer mentoring extended beyond novice TAs Self-initiated sustainable changes to course curriculum and supporting instructional materials

17 Institutional Implications Model requires substantial investment of resources (financial, human) in TA professional development Benefits and costs associated with a university-wide approach to TA professional development versus department/discipline specific approach Resulted in lack of full institutionalization beyond the initial one-year pilot

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