Media Releases

U of T receives research grant to study innovative teaching programs

November 12, 2010

TORONTO, ON — U of T’s efforts in devel­op­ing the skills of its teach­ing assis­tants will be the sub­ject of a research grant from the High­er Edu­ca­tion Qual­i­ty Coun­cil of Ontario.

The coun­cil announced Nov. 12 that 13 pro­posed research projects were select­ed to receive fund­ing to assess and high­light innovative/effective teach­ing and learn­ing prac­tices at Ontario’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to team received a grant of $30,000 from HEQCO to sup­port this project.

“These research projects will both eval­u­ate the effec­tive­ness of these ini­tia­tives and ensure that all of Ontario’s post-sec­ondary insti­tu­tions are aware of pro­grams and tech­niques that have an impact on stu­dent suc­cess,” said Har­vey Wein­garten, the council’s pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive offi­cer.

The aims of U of T’s research project are two-fold:
• To under­stand how teach­ing assis­tants (TAs) can most effec­tive­ly sup­port stu­dent learn­ing, and
• To deter­mine how TAs can be best sup­port­ed as they devel­op their own teach­ing skills.

The research will be car­ried out over a two-year peri­od by a team from the Cen­tre for Teach­ing Sup­port and Inno­va­tion led by Pro­fes­sor Car­ol Rol­heis­er, the direc­tor, and includ­ing Megan Bur­nett, Pamela Grave­stock and Emi­ly Green­leaf. Pro­fes­sor Tri­cia Seifert from the Depart­ment of The­o­ry and Pol­i­cy Stud­ies at the Ontario Insti­tute for Stud­ies in Edu­ca­tion will also col­lab­o­rate on the study.

“TAs are a sig­nif­i­cant part of the teach­ing that goes on at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, and we want to know more about their impact,” said Rol­heis­er. “We take their roles as mem­bers of the teach­ing team very seri­ous­ly and hope to learn more about the ways they can be part of a course and shape what our under­grad­u­ate stu­dents learn.”

The assess­ment will focus on two recent ini­tia­tives that have sought to inte­grate TAs into the teach­ing team:
• The Advanced Uni­ver­si­ty Train­ing Prepa­ra­tion Cer­tifi­cate (AUTP) offered by CTSI, and
• The Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Science’s Writ­ing Instruc­tion for TAs pro­gram (WIT).

The AUTP cer­tifi­cate is a vol­un­tary two-year pro­gram that includes 20 hours of train­ing focused on teach­ing skills and instruc­tion­al design, a practicum and a reflec­tive ele­ment. The WIT writ­ing pro­gram trains lead TAs drawn from the Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence to sup­port their peer TAs in teach­ing writ­ing. Lead WIT TAs also team with depart­men­tal writ­ing co-ordi­na­tors and course instruc­tors to devel­op dis­ci­pline-spe­cif­ic mate­ri­als and activ­i­ties focused on improv­ing writ­ing skills.

“As we learn more about the impact our TAs have on the under­grad­u­ate stu­dent expe­ri­ence, we can iden­ti­fy ways to enhance deep stu­dent learn­ing and the devel­op­ment of core skills and com­pe­ten­cies,” said Rol­heis­er. ““We also hope this project will demon­strate that there are cre­ative and effec­tive ways to use TAs in deliv­er­ing instruc­tion.”

“Giv­en our large base of grad­u­ate stu­dents, U of T has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to use their strengths to enhance under­grad­u­ate learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. We are delight­ed that HEQCO has seen fit to fund research into such best prac­tices and inno­va­tions so we can share the results with oth­er insti­tu­tions.”


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Susan Bloch-Nevitte
Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
High­er Edu­ca­tion Qual­i­ty Coun­cil of Ontario
(416) 212‑5242