Each cohort collaborates together over one year, including one face-to-face Research Development Session, to enact research projects that collect and analyze data about GTA teaching professional development. We have been truly honored to receive so many outstanding applications for the BioTAP Scholars program, and are excited to see that interest in this program extends across the US and internationally! We will be selecting additional cohorts each year through 2020, so please keep your eyes open for future rounds of applications.
This pages lists BioTAP Scholar Cohort members from our most recent to our initial cohort. Please get in touch with them if you want to learn more!
Cohort 3 BioTAP Scholars:
At Texas Woman’s University, I am determining what professional development opportunities are offered to Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in different departments and what these departments perceive is the responsibility of the institution to provide. I am also gathering GTA opinion on what their needs are in terms of training and support to excel as instructors. I am currently working within the Department of Biology to host a pilot workshop for Biology GTAs and adjuncts on a topic identified to be important by GTAs. Analysis of survey data from this pilot project will be presented to BioTAP and used to structure future workshops.
As a co-instructor of the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories and an education postdoc at Cornell University, I have worked with a diverse group of Graduate and Undergraduate Teaching Assistants during the past two years. My BioTAP research is focused on the impact of a semester-long Teaching Professional Development course on teaching knowledge, beliefs, and practice of TAs with diverse backgrounds in teaching and TPD received. Also, I study how the quality of mentorship interactions between the two groups of TAs influenced by the TPD provided as well.
I’m interested in understanding and supporting GTAs in their development of teaching skills and a community of practice. One focus is their experiences of peer observation: in what ways, and to what extent, does the process of friendly observation, feedback, and structured reflection impact TA confidence, skills, and community connections?
As a Postdoctoral Associate in STEM Learning & Teaching in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Stony Brook University, much of my work has focused on implementing teaching professional development for STEM Graduate GTAs and Postdocs, particularly in the Biological Sciences. My BioTAP research aims to determine if a short, interactive online GTA Training Program shows similar gains in GTA teaching self-efficacy as a face-to-face version, persisting at least one semester after the program is completed. If the data suggests that the two versions are indeed equivalent, this will not only allow me to provide a flexible resource for GTAs but also answer their call for this format pedagogy training. In addition, these data will add to evidence that short programs can have lasting effects.
I am an Educational Research Postdoc in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratory at Cornell University. For my BioTAP project, I am asking the question, “What do graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) anticipate to be the long-term costs and benefits of our introductory biology laboratory teaching assistantship and pedagogy training?” I plan to use the results from this project in conjunction with what former (graduated) GTAs report as their manifested long-term costs and benefits to design an intervention aimed at helping future GTAs to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of the assistantship.
I’m PI on an NSF-supported initiative to design, implement, and assess a TAPD program focusing on inclusive teaching and facilitating inquiry. For my BioTAP involvement, I’m investigating whether TA mindset impacts previously documented gaps–between underrepresented students in STEM and their well represented peers–in affect and performance. Should TA mindset matter, we will refine our program to include a mindset intervention.
My BioTAP research is investigating how graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) define experimental failure in an inquiry-based laboratory. I am determining if GTAs define different scenarios as experimental failure, and how they would work through these failures with the students. I am also monitoring the self-reflection from the GTAs during weeks of experimentation on how the students deal with perceived failure, and how the TAs guided them through these experiences.
Ruth MacNeille (macnruth at isu.edu), Idaho State University
I am a biology doctorate student and instructor at Idaho State University. I am interested in the impacts of a teaching professional development model that brings together pedagogically-trained graduate students and ISU STEM instructors who desire increasing the use of active learning techniques in their teaching. For BioTAP, I am investigating graduate students’ teaching self-efficacy for using active learning techniques in lecture-style classrooms after they have been a consultant for an instructor to plan and implement a particular technique. This project is embedded in a larger study to investigate the interactions and outcomes of this model as a possibly impactful model for professional development of both parties.
My research focuses on determining which teaching professional development (TPD) opportunities GTAs value and why. At the University of Tennessee, we have about 40-50 GTAs each semester teaching 100-level biology courses. All of the courses have weekly GTA prep meetings that incorporate TPD to varying degrees (teaching observations, shadowing, student feedback, how to write assessments, etc…). Our GTAs also have various teaching experiences, training, and career goals that could influence what TPD components they value the most.
I’m a new Assistant Professor at Fort Hays State University and Associate Curator of Mammals at the Sternberg Natural History Museum in Hays, Kansas. While there is an increasing body of work showing that TAPD is important and necessary to improve undergraduate education, few studies have investigated which components of TAPD are necessary and most effective for increasing teaching confidence (self-efficacy). In particular, there is little consensus about how much time should be devoted to TAPD. I will investigate this gap in knowledge using self-efficacy data collected from TAs who have had different “doses” of TAPD over several semesters.
I am a Lecturer for Biology courses in the Center for Life Sciences Education (CLSE) at Ohio State. The CLSE prepares and employs ~80 GTAs per year to teach labs and recitations in a variety of biology courses. GTAs come from many departments across campus (including, for example, the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology), and nearly all of them are working on graduate-level research as well as teaching. My research is focused on assessing the connections that GTAs make between their research and understanding of scientific process, and their teaching in biology classes. I am particularly interested in whether or how GTAs bring their perspective as developing researchers to teaching undergraduate biology students. As a result of this research I hope to develop resources to help strengthen connections between GTAs’ research and teaching.
At the University of Kentucky, I teach a large lecture and coordinate a laboratory course in microbiology to students with a wide-range of majors and diverse plans for their future professions. I am interested in the relationship between social and emotional experiences in the classroom and student academic success in diverse classrooms. My BioTAP project investigates how exposing Graduate Teaching Assistants to inclusive teaching strategies will affect students’ sense of the classroom community in courses taught by GTAs. Understanding this relationship will help to develop an inclusive classroom environment that promotes the success of all students.
Kausalya Shenoy (kay.shenoy at uky.edu), University of Kentucky
I am a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Biology, University of Kentucky. I teach a few different courses, prominent of which are an introductory level biology course for incoming freshmen and an upper level ecology lab. The Ecology lab is taught by GTAs and I am responsible for the content and the training of the GTAs who teach the course. During my years teaching this course, I have found that GTAs differ in their application of rubrics while grading, which leads to inconsistency in grades among students. My BioTAP project is aimed at understanding why this is so. The project will include focus groups, a workshop based on the findings of the focus groups, and pre- and post-workshop grade comparisons while applying a rubric. This project will help us understand what aspects of rubrics make them ambiguous and how to create rubrics that improve grading efficacy.
My research interests are centered around improving the quality of instruction in higher education STEM through developing teaching assistants and early faculty. My BioTAP project focuses on STEM TA teacher efficacy and how it changes over the course of a semester for those who did and did not attend a university wide pre-semester TA workshop. Comparisons among these two samples will be made to determine if generalized professional development has an impact on TAs’ perceptions of their teaching abilities.
After an exploratory study to determine the pedagogical needs of the GTAs for the 2 largest introductory biology courses, a training program will be created that includes elements of our reflective teaching program for professors. The change in GTA knowledge about teaching through the PCK PRIME reflection template (Lampley, 2015) and the change in GTA beliefs about teaching and confidence in teaching (Wheeler et al., 2017) will be measured to determine the difference for GTAs that receive training.
My current research project is focused on understanding how the roles and tasks we give GTAs may shape the way they value their experience as teaching assistants. Many GTAs in Biology-related programs at the University of British Columbia are assigned entry level courses during their first teaching assistantship. These courses have a wide range of tasks, from mostly marking to leading entire sections of a course. I plan to explore how these different roles impact the GTAs themselves and work with these GTAs to develop ways to increase the value they see in their positions.
Cohort 2 BioTAP Scholars:
Larry Bowman (larry.bowman at yale.edu), Yale University
My research focuses on how long and to what degree do short-term interventions for graduate student and post-doc instructors affect self-efficacy. My project also has dimensions of categorizing active learning instructions and inclusivity to correlate self-efficacy with measures of PD topics employed in the classroom. I have more recently joined in a collaboration with fellow BioTAPer Kaleb Heinrich to explore the current knowledge and beliefs about teaching among junior scientists in the Freshwater sciences societies.
Ryan Coker (rcc08e at my.fsu.edu), Florida State University
My research post-secondary teacher professional development (PD) is informed by literature across K-12 and post-secondary educational research. These literature emphasize closely studying PDs by linking their core design features, how teachers interacted with these features in the PD, how teachers go about implementing the ideas from the PD in their classrooms, and how teachers’ students are impacted by the teacher’s use of ideas and strategies highlighted in the PD. Core to the PD I design and study is engaging instructors of biology lab courses with deep thinking about implementing instructional strategies across planning, instructing, and reflecting on teaching which serve to elicit, attend to, interpret, and respond to student thinking in ways that maintain intellectual rigor on students’ thinking as they grapple with biology content and engage deeply in science reasoning and argumentation.
Melody Danley, University of Kentucky
Stephanie Gutzler (sgutzler1 at gsu.edu), Georgia State University
My research focuses on the role of mentorship in the professional development of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). In the Biology Department at Georgia State University, we require our laboratory GTAs to complete a semester-long apprenticeship prior to their first semester of teaching. Historically, this apprenticeship centered around having a trainee “shadow” a more experienced GTA with little guidance (for either individual) on how to navigate these roles as mentor and mentee. With the help of BioTAP, I developed and implemented a three-tier mentorship model for our trainees. I am interested in determining whether or not GTAs that participate in receiving or providing mentorship develop greater self-efficacy compared to those that do not participate. I also hope to investigate the long-term benefits to being mentored as an apprentice in our program and to expand this model to include mentoring through the duration of students’ assistantships.
Rachael Hannah (rmhannah at alaska.edu), University of Alaska, Anchorage
At UAA, there is not any formal Graduate Teaching Assistant training programs, rather it is individualized to the GTA supervisor and course. As UAA’s Biological Sciences department has moved to inquiry and authentic research based undergraduate labs, one of the challenges has been to train GTA’s in the socratic method of teaching. My BioTAP project is to explore how socratic method of teaching training increases GTA frequency of use of socratic method while interacting with undergraduates during inquiry based labs. Ultimately, I would like the GTA’s to self evaluate their teaching using the LOPUS tool and explore if this type of evaluation and reflection can increase their ability to guide students through inquiry/authentic research based labs.
Kaleb Heinrich (kheinrich at ua.edu), University of Alabama
My project solicits feedback from graduate student members of professional scientific societies to assess their current knowledge and beliefs about teaching. Additionally, I want to know if GTAs have participated in TPD and if they would be interested in participating in TPD opportunities through their respective societies. I hope my findings can be used to inform and promote GTA professional development opportunities within these societies.
Samantha Herrmann, Ohio State University
Amy Keagy (amy.keagy at unf.edu), University of North Florida
Our GAs are exposed to teaching pedagogy and active learning strategies through the fall orientation and workshops throughout the year. I am interested in understanding the nature of undergraduate perceptions of GA teaching, specifically how they regard active learning practices that may implemented by the GAs as a result of their exposure to new practices.
Rachel Kennison (rkennison at ceils.ucla.edu), University of California, Los Angeles
My research questions are: 1) In a TA training course, how do GTA’s attitudes about teaching change over a 10 week time period? 2) Is there the same amount of change in post course 1-year time period? 3) How do changes in attitude about teaching help develop a professional identity? We have gathered 3 quarters of data, and unfortunately have a lower sample size than expected, so we will continue data collection for an additional year. The project uses the same survey interest to compare this TA training course, taught by 2 faculty with 4 other TA training courses taught by advanced GTA’s. We are interested in determining if the messenger matters, and do TA’s respond differently if the course is taught by a peer vs. faculty.
Harini Krishnan (hk12b at fsu.edu), Florida State University
I am a Graduate Student in Science Education at Florida State University. My research context is introductory biology laboratory for majors. My current study is a Design Based Research (DBR) project focused on implementation of a student-centered lesson in order to facilitate student talk to foster student sense-making. Briefly, I am introducing design elements in the curriculum of the introductory Biology lab that foster student talk. I am collecting data in the form of video recordings of the lesson implementation by the Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and analyzing them from various lenses of discourse.
Shannon Mallison (mallissm at wfu.edu), Wake Forest University
During the past few years, I have been developing a set of new CURE labs using publicly available research data. I am interested in learning more about GTA preparedness and undergraduate outcomes in CURE labs. How do GTA characteristics, such as teaching and research experience, attitude, and knowledge of the CURE subject matter, are associated with positive undergrad outcomes and interest in further research?
Michelle Nugent (mlnugent at ncsu.edu), North Carolina State University
My research interest primarily involves improving the student experience through the implementation of well-designed classroom activities and improved pedagogical preparation of teaching faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). For BioTAP, I conducted a baseline study of how undergraduate students and GTAs perceive the laboratory experience in Introductory Biology, both in terms of strategies that are currently well-implemented and those that need improvement. The study includes a look at student comfort with and reliance on GTA interactions, and GTA reflections on their strengths, weaknesses, and needs as instructors.
Cheryl Pinzone, University of Colorado, Boulder
Katherine Price (katherine.e.price at dartmouth.edu), Dartmouth College
I am interested in how reframing the TA’ing experience to emphasize the transferable skills gained from teaching affects Graduate TAs’ knowledge of, acquisition of and importance placed on those transferable skills.
Joshua Reid (jwr4k at mtmail.mtsu.edu), Middle Tennessee State University
Joshua’s research centers around the informal and social learning aspects of GTA teaching professional development. His BioTAP research project focuses on the question of “What do the teaching community networks and research community networks look like for biology GTAs in teaching-focused and research-focused institutions?” To answer this question, he uses social network analysis and draws upon sociological and anthropological frameworks.
Seema Rivera (riveras at clarkson.edu), Clarkson University
With support from the BioTAP fellowship, I have been researching graduate teaching assistants’ beliefs and views on teaching. While working with my cohort and the PIs of this project, I have narrowed my research to focus on International Graduate Teaching Assistants, their teaching experiences, and the various pathways they take when adapting to a new culture.
Erin Sanders O’Leary (erins ar ceils.ucla.edu), University of California, Los Angeles
The goal of my project is to examine the effectiveness of a train-the-trainer model at preparing graduate student instructors to engage in and teach pedagogy aimed at increasing aspects of multicultural competency, which awareness of own identity and biases, knowledge of diverse populations, and skill in implementing classroom interventions that serve diverse student populations. Using items from a variety of validated instruments, I am surveying graduate student instructors as well as the graduate student teaching assistants in their courses to gauge any changes in awareness, knowledge, and skill. I am comparing the impact of the training to those graduate students in courses taught by faculty trained in this pedagogy to determine the optimal teaching method associated with the greatest gains.
Katrina Stewart (Katrina.Stewart at mail.wvu.edu), West Virginia University
I am interested in helping Graduate Teaching Assistants be good coaches in writing-intensive introductory biology laboratory courses. As a BioTAP Scholar, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to teach the GTAs methods of providing effective feedback that help the undergraduates improve their written communication skills. I am evaluating comments GTAs leave on written assignments as well as their responses to surveys about their teaching roles to identify ways to improve GTA training and support.
Cohort 1 BioTAP Scholars:
I am studying how Graduate Teaching Assistants understand knowledge construction and how this emerges in their classroom practice. Results from this project will be used to inform professional development seminars for GTAs in biology.
The research question for my project is: Does the Teaching Fellows Program increase participant self-efficacy and adoption of scientific teaching practices? There is a new director of the Teaching Fellows Program, as I have taken a faculty position at a different institution, but we are collectively working on a slight variation on this original project idea. We are currently gathering some baseline data on program alumni, and will use this as a jumping off point for then addressing my original research question (as well as some additional topics).
As part of the NSF CUR Transformations Project to introduce undergraduate research in all levels of the curriculum, the work in our department has focused on carefully designing graduate TA training before any GTAs teach in the new labs we are developing for introductory biology. To support this reform, we are conducting a preliminary study of GTA readiness for inquiry teaching through a start/end of the year survey and interviews. This will serve not only to prepare our GTA training program, but also allow for faculty participation and buy-in.
In the Center for Life Sciences Education at the Ohio State University, each of our teaching assistants (TAs) are required to take a 1 credit hour individualized teaching professional development each time they teach with us. My research project focuses on investigating how student-centered, active teaching approaches, and attitudes of TAs change with repeated participation in our teaching professional development course.
Amy Marion (amarion at nmsu.edu) , New Mexico State University
Some members of BioTAP have related anecdotally how faculty view teaching as less important and a distraction from research. My main research question for BioTAP addresses IF and to WHAT EXTENT faculty at the University of Ottawa support graduate student training in teaching and learning. I have worked in collaboration with the University of British Columbia to develop a large survey tool (available on Trellis) that my institution plans to customize before a late 2018/early 2019 faculty-wide rollout.
As a BioTAP Scholar Erin began a study investigating the perceptions of graduate students who teach course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). Through this work her lab completed an interview study conducted with CURE GTAs nationwide that will serve as pilot data for a larger proposal on GTAs and CUREs.
I am an instructor at Oregon State University, and I have been developing new methods to directly assess how GTAs apply skills and knowledge from weekly teaching professional development (TPD) in their own teaching. To evaluate this, I am using a combination of pre- and post-term surveys, student evaluation data (of GTA-led labs), written GTA reflections, class capture videos (coded via LOPUS), reflective video statements, and (eventually) program exit interviews. The goal is to (1) assess the effectiveness of our departmental TPD program, but also (2) explore and communicate ways to integrate multiple approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of TPD for graduate students. (As an aside: I have found BioTAP extremely helpful to motivate and support me in undertaking this TPD research!)
Jeanetta Floyd (jholley2 at gsu.edu), Georgia State University
I started with an idea to use an on-line modular workshop format to deliver GTA TPD the summer prior to the fall term (and provide on-going support) to build a TPD learning community. After some bumps in the road, I am now working on building a team of GTAs and UGs to develop new introductory biology lab exercises. I will provide support and TPD for incoming lab instructors via an internal funding grant.
I’m looking at the development of graduate teaching assistants’ beliefs about teaching and learning, specifically comparing their teaching philosophy statements from their first semester through the completion of the CIRTL Associate certificate to see how their overall conceptualization of learning may change from a more teaching-centric or transactional model to a more learning-centric or constructivist model.
Star Lee (star.lee at ucr.edu), University of California, Riverside
I’m interested in learning more about how graduate students think about teaching and how their thinking changes as they progress through a graduate course on pedagogy. The course is designed to teach graduate students the fundamental concepts of pedagogy and how to engage students in the materials. The goal of this project is to evaluate the impact of graduate student participation in this course by analyzing in-class discussions, concept maps, and surveys
The purpose of this study is to determine whether varying levels of GTA PD are associated with increased GTA knowledge, confidence, and incorporation of inquiry principles into practice. At UNO, we are providing about 20 minutes of GTA professional development to our TAs per week; other institutions (Oregon State, The University of Delaware, and The University of Eastern Carolina) are providing varying levels of professional development. At the end of the academic year, we will compare to one another. We plan to use the findings to adjust our GTA professional development programs and to make recommendations to others.
With support from the BioTAP network, Jeff initiated an exploratory study to investigate current professional development (PD) practices employed nationwide to prepare graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to effectively facilitate course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in the biological sciences. In addition to identifying existent practices, he is particularly interested in understanding how PD opportunities are (dis)similar as a function of course structure, sub-discipline, and academic level (e.g., introductory vs. upper-division; majors vs. non-majors). Jeff welcomes collaborations with other scholars with similar research interests and would encourage those individuals to contact him at email@example.com.
As a part of the BioTAP fellowship, I am interested in determining the perceptions of Native and International Teaching assistants by undergraduates. We are currently piloting this study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
I am comparing three different types of graduate student training experiences, in isolation and combination, to determine the impact on GTA knowledge of inquiry-based labs and student-centered learning, GTA self-efficacy, and GTA classroom practice. I have been using multiple surveys (ATI, STEM-GTA TSES, and Knowledge Survey) to assess GTA knowledge and self-efficacy before and after training. To determine the impact of the training on how the GTAs are actually teaching, I have been conducting at least two classroom observations of each GTA each semester using the Laboratory Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (LOPUS).
We will keep the listserv up to date on Cohort activities, and we hope you are as excited as we are to see the research that emerges from this initiative!
**BioTAP Scholars Acknowledgement Statement: This research on GTA teaching professional development was conducted as part of the BioTAP Scholars program, a component of the Biology Teaching Assistant Project (BioTAP; NSF RCN-UBE grant #DBI-1247938).