The design, implementation, and evaluation of a teacher training workshop for mathematics graduate teaching assistants
Trouba, Jerome Charles
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To help train new graduate mathematics teaching assistants (GMTAs), a teacher training workshop was designed based on K-12 literature on the components of effective professional development (Garet, et al., 2001). The workshop consisted of six two-hour seminars over a six week period followed by a classroom feedback component of either peer coaching or observation, for a total time commitment of 18 hours. The content of the workshop addressed teaching techniques specifically targeted to GMTAs. These ideas included elements of reflection, techniques for engaging students through active learning, asking good questions, utilizing wait-time, and using formative assessment techniques. The assessment of the workshop was based on Guskey's (1999) work on the five levels of effective professional development evaluation. In the mixed-methods design, 18 GMTAs participated in the workshop. Data collection consisted of three sets of videotapes, two sets of interviews, surveys, and coaching and observation forms. Results indicated that a well-designed workshop can impact teaching practices. Through interviews, GMTAs indicated they were more reflective of their teaching, thought more about the questions they asked, and actively involved their students more during lectures. The workshop was considered effective not only because GMTAs said they changed their teaching but because changes were seen in their teaching. For nine GMTAs strong evidence was collected of their change in teaching: they not only mentioned specific changes to their teaching in the interviews, but these specific changes were observed on videotapes of their classroom. In comparing peer coaching with observation, seven of the ten in the coaching group commented that just watching another's class helped them to improve more than any other part of the coaching process. Only two of the ten coaching participants commented on the helpfulness of the pre and post conference discussions involved with coaching. From the data collected, the possible added benefits of peer coaching may be outweighed by the additional time, organization, and pairing requirements present in a GMTA setting. Five constructs that influenced the effectiveness of the peer coaching experience are discussed. This project contributes to the research base regarding adapting K-12 professional development literature into a collegiate setting.