Mentorship of Graduate Teaching Assistants: Effects on Instruction and a Space for Preparing to Teach Adults

From Section:
Mentoring & Supervision
Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 6, Issue 3, November 2010 , pages 245 - 256.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current study examines the author's work with four graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) as they joined her to teach a graduate course at San Francisco State University.

The author sought the Teaching Assistants' perspective on how to improve instruction in a course students consistently described as highly rigorous.

To understand how she provided mentorship, the author looks at the work she and the TAs did together to plan and teach the course and at the TAs' response to this work. This work differs from most literature on TAs as it focuses on the collaborative aspect of teaching and the intricacies of providing mentorship.

The research question addresses whether the author's work with the TAs was effective in providing them with models, feedback, and experiences that helped prepare them for teaching adults.
The author's sub-question addresses changes to the course due to the involvement of the TAs - particularly in relation to the question of how best to moderate the workload for current students.
Data include qualitative sources drawn from course materials and journaling, the TAs' reflections, and qualitative and quantitative student evaluations.


The findings demonstrate that students still found course demands to be quite high. In contrast, TAs' oral and written responses show that the collaboration was valuable in terms of their learning to teach adults and that they had grown from the experience.
In addition, the TAs needed more feedback on their teaching and to be made more visible to the students as sources of support.

Conclusion and Implications

Since the completion of this study, the author has made some changes to her mentoring.
The author now has TAs help her plan each session by arranging meetings before and after class, and supplementing this with email.

The author provides more detailed feedback on the TAs' interaction with students.

Furthermore, the author also includes the TAs more strategically in teaching decisions, for example, TAs select a few readings for the syllabus; The author has them evaluate student work directly by writing their comments in the margins of a second paper copy, then emailing her summaries.

Finally, the author has also become more successful at guiding students to seek out TAs for conceptual feedback on their teacher research projects.

Updated: Dec. 11, 2018
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