2011 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Vancouver, BC. Session T439.

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The purpose of this study was to explore and understand the types of socialization experiences that result from engineering graduate teaching assistants‟ (TAs) roles as course instructors. Socialization refers to an individual‟s process of becoming a part of a group. In the context of doctoral education, socialization can be a complex area to study, largely because there are many roles and groups for which graduate students can be socialized.

Using situated learning, more specifically the communities of practice literature, as the theoretical framework, this study looked at how three doctoral engineering TAs, with experience as course instructors, become members of the community of practice that is academia. This study was guided by the following research questions: 1) What socialization experiences do doctoral engineering TAs report going through as a result of working as course instructors? 2) What recommendations to improve the TA experience emerge from this study?

Data were collected in the form of interviews (individual and focus group, with participants from two schools of engineering at a Midwestern university). These data sources were analyzed and triangulated to find recurring themes. Results indicated several categories of socialization experiences, as characterized by the three TAs. Implications from the study suggest the need for a progressive TA model, in which TAs are given more responsibilities during specific stages of their program, culminating with the opportunity to be course instructors.


Heidi Diefes-Dux


2011, ASEE, teaching assistants

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