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.”
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