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Providing Support to First-Year Graduate Teaching Assistants: What Do They Really Need?

Sheri J. Brock, Brenna Cosgrove Miller, Nikki Hollett, Jessica R. Grimes, and Michele Moore

Purpose: Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) often play a vital role in the delivery of university programs, yet GTAs may lack pedagogical experience. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of GTAs during their first semester of university teaching. Specifically, we provide a descriptive account of the GTAs’ lived experiences and how departments can best prepare GTAs. Method: Four first-year GTAs at a university in the United States participated in the study. Data collection included participant journals, focus group interviews, and individual interviews. Results: Utilizing situated learning theory as a theoretical frame, data sources generated four themes. GTAs reported positive experiences as ample support was provided, expectations were outlined, experiential learning occurred, and confidence increased through the establishment of routines. Discussion/Conclusion: Findings indicated that GTAs can acclimate to their new universities and responsibilities with guidance, resources, and support.