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Graduate teaching assistants' perceptions of their instructional roles and classroom management

Jiali Luo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Using a collective instrumental case study design, this study explored, described, and analyzed how three U.S. and three international graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) at a major Midwestern state university perceived their instructional roles and engaged in classroom management in their classes during the Fall Semester of an academic year. ^ The major sources of information for this collective case study consisted of semi-structured interviews, participant observations, fieldnotes, and document review. Themes that emerged from the case data were first examined within individual cases and then across all the cases. ^ This study generated seven major findings. First, GTAs varied their instructional roles according to the nature of courses, course materials, and student needs. Second, GTAs experienced problems in their classroom instruction, such as lack of commitment and disengagement on the part of students. Third, when handling classroom problems, U.S. GTAs focused more on communication skills, whereas international GTAs emphasized prevention and understanding students. Fourth, U.S. GTAs tended to enhance classroom communication by the proficient use of the language and the creation of an interactive classroom via group work and role playing. In contrast, international GTAs were likely to use handouts, visual aids, computer solutions, and printouts. Fifth, GTAs relied on their supervisors for guidance in course coverage, potential problems, and institutional expectations. Six, GTAs found GTA experience beneficial in providing career training, experience, job satisfaction, and opportunities of learning from students. However, they found it time-consuming to assume GTA responsibilities and challenging to grade exams, design a syllabus, or provide better answers to students' questions. Finally, GTAs' supervisors perceived a need to train GTAs on generic issues of teaching and help GTAs socialize to their roles and responsibilities and grow professionally. ^ With the scarcity of literature on GTAs' perceptions of instructional and classroom management issues, this study provided specific information by identifying themes and frameworks that could be examined in future cases. Recommendations for GTA training and implications for future research were included. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Luo, Jiali, "Graduate teaching assistants' perceptions of their instructional roles and classroom management" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9962062.