Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Graduate Student Perception of Teaching Development in a College Teaching Course 1

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Graduate Student Perception of Teaching Development in a College Teaching Course 1

Article excerpt


Although graduate schools provide some opportunities for students to learn teaching strategies and methods (Austin et al., 2009; Marbach-Ad et al., 2015), opportunities to practice remain few (Austin, 2002). Furthermore, practice alone is insufficient, as reflection serves a key role in developing teaching skills (Austin, 2002; Gardner and Jones, 2011; Park, 2004). Reflection requires purposeful, persistent, and deep thinking about past experiences (Brookfield, 1995). With limited time and competing priorities, graduate students typically focus on strengthening discipline-specific knowledge and skills, seldom taking time to reflect on their teaching. Most doctoral students complete their degrees with vast discipline-specific knowledge, but little to no knowledge or understanding about how students learn and effective teaching strategies and methods. Thus, new faculty members often begin academic life prepared to research but unprepared to teach (Boice, 2000).

Higher education institutions seek candidates with well-rounded preparation including teaching and research skills and a desire to contribute service to the profession (Austin et al., 2009). When graduate students choose academic careers, foundational knowledge for effective teaching may be missing (Gardner and Jones, 2011). In addition to a curriculum vita demonstrating disciplinary credentials, search committees increasingly require a teaching philosophy statement articulating how one teaches and describes teaching strategies and methods grounded in how students learn (Coppola, 2002). However, graduate students may be uncompetitive and unsuccessful in obtaining higher education faculty positions due to their lack of teaching experience, and confidence (Gardner and Jones, 2011).

Frequently hired for research expertise, most faculty have little preparation in pedagogical methods (Estepp et al., 2012). Therefore, new faculty often And teaching a daunting task, including preparing courses and lessons, facilitating in the classroom and online, and managing classroom behaviors and incivilities (Boice, 2000). Furthermore, increasing confidence requires gaining knowledge and practicing skills in a new domain, but graduate students have little opportunity for such gain and practice. In addition, graduate students seldom receive feedback on their teaching, yet feedback builds confidence as graduate students learn about how to improve their teaching while learning new pedagogical skills (Robinson et al., 2014). Therefore, new ways of developing teaching strategies and methods and providing teaching experiences and reflection opportunities merit further examination to best prepare graduate students to enter academia or a teaching profession.

Purpose, Course, and Conceptual Framework

To develop graduate student pedagogical knowledge and teaching skills, a large southwestern research university offered a three credit, graduate course for students in all disciplines. In the College Teaching course, graduate students apply teaching and learning theories to practice, practice teaching methods, receive feedback on their teaching, and practice self-reflection (Fowler, 2012). The purpose of this study was to investigate graduate student perception of teaching development during a college teaching course. Two research questions guided the study asking how and why graduate student teaching develops.

This study used a conceptual framework comprised of the course design cycle (Table 1; Center for Teaching Excellence, n.d.) and Kolb's (1984) experiential learning model or cycle. We provide an integrated discussion of the course and cycle because the instructor, this article's first author, used the course design cycle to create the college teaching course, and students, including this article's second author, learned and applied the cycle within the course. The course design cycle's steps provide a framework for instructors to inform their personal instructional strategy as they prepare to teach a course. …

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