GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 274-9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


RYKER, Katherine, School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, TEASDALE, Rachel, Geological & Environmental Sciences, CSU Chico, Chico, CA 95929-0205 and BITTING, Kelsey S., Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Ave., 215 Snell Library, Boston, MA 02115

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) represent a significant proportion of the teaching workforce in geoscience departments at master’s and Ph.D. granting institutions. Geoscience GTAs teach introductory and upper-level laboratory sections, support faculty in large lecture courses, and are instructors of record for lecture courses at some institutions. While GTAs are presumed to have a basic level of content knowledge by virtue of their undergraduate degrees in the geosciences or related fields, relatively few receive substantial training in pedagogy or geoscience-specific pedagogical content knowledge (Teasdale et al., in review). Therefore, many GTAs are poorly-prepared to support and contribute to ongoing efforts to improve undergraduate geoscience instruction and increase the attraction and retention of more diverse student populations.

While other STEM disciplines such as biology and chemistry have tested evidence-based and research-informed models for GTA teaching professional development (TPD), very few have empirically examined the effectiveness of GTA TPD in the geosciences (Bitting et al., 2017). This is despite the high value placed on TPD by a majority of faculty recently surveyed (Teasdale et al., in review). Drawing from GTA training publications from across STEM disciplines and the NSF-funded Geoscience Education Research (GER) Grand Challenges on Professional Development and Institutional Change (Bitting et al., 2018; St. John et al., 2018), we outline a long-range agenda to guide empirical and theoretical GER that assesses GTA TPD in the geosciences. Among other aims, research areas include: 1) identifying and assessing training that best supports GTAs’ long-term development as instructors and their implementation of research-supported teaching practices that result in improved student learning; and 2) investigating how departmental cultures and teaching beliefs impact implementation of effective pedagogies in practice. This research agenda is proposed to result in substantial improvement in our understanding of the systems and departmental cultures in which GTAs teach and learn about teaching, a range of evidence-based practices for GTA TPD, and of the ways in which GTAs contribute to undergraduate outcomes.