The Individual Graduate Teaching Assistant Negotiating Current Preparation Models: A Case Study of Four Composition Graduate Teaching Assistants
Type of Degreedissertation
DepartmentEducation Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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Graduate teaching assistants are common fixtures on college campuses, and their roles encompass a wide range of duties, including supervising labs, working alongside mentors, and teaching a variety of beginner courses to students. It is common practice in the field of composition and rhetoric, for example, to employ second year master's students as instructors of college writing courses. Because these GTAs are not assistants like the title implies but the teacher of record for their courses, university preparation programs serve as an important site for new teacher training. A large body of studies documents the common elements and techniques used to train GTAs in composition studies; however, only a small number of empirical studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between these elements, practica, pedagogy courses, and apprenticeships, for example, and the GTA experience (Latterell, 1996; Liggett, 1999; Ebest, 2005). Moreover, existing studies rarely highlight the significance of genetic and environment interaction in understanding GTA life and training. The following qualitative research project incorporates a combination of the case study method of Stake (1995) and the method of constant comparison outlined by Glaser and Strauss (1967) to provide a systematic account of the lived experiences and preparation of graduate teachers of composition studies. The participants included four second year master’s students working as GTAs in the English department of a large research university. Each participant was identified as "novice" with no prior teaching experience, and each participated in the university’s training program (including a mentor program, pedagogy courses, an orientation, and a practicum) the previous year. Using data gathered from interviews, journals, and questionnaires, the present study examines the field specific demands and struggles acknowledged by the participants and considers how well the institutional preparation provided was suited to meet those demands. The study takes as its lens the b/p/s model used by psychologists, and those in other medical fields, to emphasize the significance of the genetic and environment interaction in understanding the lived experiences and preparation of composition GTAs.