Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Cronin, J with Bettie Higgs, Marian McCarthy, Jacinta McKeon
Engaging Minds: Active learning, participation and collaboration in Higher education. NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference and Galway Symposium on Higher Education
In-at-the-deep-end: graduate teaching assistants as role models in the university
University College Galway
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

At University College Cork, work with graduate students has culminated in an annual symposium entitled In-at-the-deep-end over the past 3 years. Graduate teaching assistants are encouraged to tackle a central question or problem emerging from their teaching practice, to formulate strategies for student engagement, and to critically analyse the effects of applying these strategies from the vantage point of their own emerging teaching and learning philosophies. How does the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning literature assist in the formation of scholarly teachers at graduate level? In-at-the-deep-end highlights the authentic voices of graduate teaching assistants engaged in the process of reflective practice. Such intentional awareness is central to the process of becoming professional. Vicki Kubler LaBoskey and Mary Lynn Hamilton comment on the role of teacher inquiry for reflective purposes as follows: 'Narrative inquirers less try to drain the "swamp" of experience though a systematic analysis of particular aspects of situations than try to make its muddiness, if anything, even more generative in the sense of opening up possibilities for it to be otherwise, for different stories to be lived and told' (Kubler LaBoskey and Hamilton, 2010, p. 395). 

This paper draws on the findings of a five-year analysis of the course data, using narrative inquiry frameworks (see Kubler LaBoskey and Hamilton, 2010), and arraying mined data through text visualisations for a comparative analysis between what the SoTL academic literature proposes and what is enacted in the real-life experiences of classroom practice. These findings coalesce around the following: 

1. Managing student expectations: situating learning, teasing out troublesome knowledge, and focusing on the needs of individual learners by using multiple entries to learning and an array of assessment tools to ask: how do graduate teacher assistants know what their students know? 

2. Educational constructivism: Social constructivists, from Lev Vygosky to Diana Laurillard, have spoken about the value of participatory conversation in learning, whereby, knowledge is co-constructed, negotiated, and mediated. How can teaching assistants engender an inquiry frame of mind? 

3. Decoding disciplines and scholarly teacher formation: graduate teacher assistants help to encourage students to think within their chosen discipline or profession. How to think like a scientist or a social analyst etc. How does this help graduates, as researchers, to think about the construction of their own disciplines? Outcomes resonating from the teaching and learning for graduate studies programme, as expressed through narrative inquiry, include: a general appreciation of the diversity of student learning; an identification of different "entry points" to learning such as the use of games in fostering group engagement; an appreciation of the role the teaching space plays in promoting engaged learning environments and the dynamics of communication in teaching. Taken together, these teacher narratives discuss relationships between teaching and learning as part of a dynamic cycle embracing action as distilled through critical reflection, so that, teaching informs learning and learning informs teaching. These manifest practical applications of ideas discussed by scholars like John Dewey, Mary Taylor Huber, Pat Hutchings, Lee S. Shulman and others. Graduate assistant teachers share many similar concerns to those of academic staff. What emerges from these teacher narratives is an exposition of the current challenges facing teaching and learning across a diversity of disciplines in Irish higher education today.  

Reference: Kubler LaBoskey, V. and Hamilton, M. (2010). "Doing as I Do": The Role of Teacher Educator Self-Study in Educating for Reflective Inquiry (pp. 333-396) in N. Lyons (ed.), Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry: Mapping a Way of Knowing London and New York: Springer