AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 18. Astronomy Education Research
Special Session Oral, Monday, June 5, 2000, 2:00-3:30pm, Highland B/J

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[18.03] The Importance of TA Training in an Active Learning Environment

W. H. Potter (Dept of Physics UC Davis)

We are now in our fourth year of teaching a 1000+ student per year introductory physics course in an active-learning format. Students meet for five hours per week in what we call discussion/lab sections. They work in groups of five, with twenty five students in each section. The discussion/lab is truly the heart of the course, rather than the once-a-week lecture section. During a typical two and one-half hour discussion/lab, students typically complete three activity cycles. Each cycle consists of individual and small group work in response to written prompts, sometimes involving the carrying out of a measurement or lab-type activity. Then each small group arrives at their own consensus, presents and/or defends their work to the entire class, which often leads to animated whole-class discussion. The majority of these sections are taught by first and second year graduate student teaching assistants. The role of the instructor in these sections is much more as facilitator than presenter of information and/or lab procedures, the role a typical beginning graduate student is familiar with. However, we have found that the vast majority of our TAs quickly become effective instructors in their new role, if they participate in our first-quarter instructor professional development and training program. Our program begins with an intense three day workshop just prior to the start of classes and then continues with an approximately five/hour per week component during the first quarter. In this talk I will emphasize the interrelated and connected nature of the training program with the active-learning teaching experience of the TAs, and why we believe it achieves the success it does. Data on how the beliefs and practices of the new graduate students change and evolve will be presented. We gratefully acknowledge the support of a FIPSE grant #P116B70958

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: whpotter@ucdavis.edu

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