Implementation of a constructivist-oriented training for kinesiology graduate teaching assistants

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ray Schweighardt (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Ang Chen

Abstract: Increasingly, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are not assisting faculty instructors, but finding themselves in the role of lead instructor, particularly in physical activity courses. Despite this responsibility, GTAs receive little or no pedagogical training and often feel unprepared to teach. Conversely, college and university physical education teacher education (PETE) programs grounded in constructivist principles provide a strong nurturing environment for teacher growth and are increasingly commonplace. Constructivist methods foster learners’ active involvement by utilizing real-life learning situations that they perceive as relevant to their own lives – situations that are contextual and holistic. While constructivist PETE programs have been studied, constructivist kinesiology GTA training has not. Alignment (curricular elements reinforcing each other and fitting together logically) is a goal of constructivist teaching. Built on a pilot study that revealed the absence or poor articulation of three key curricular elements - student learning objectives (SLOs), learning cues, and teacher-provided feedback, this dissertation study was conducted to implement and evaluate a constructivist-oriented program to train new university GTAs to enhance their teaching effectiveness through alignment of these three elements. This study utilized a qualitative research design, focusing on process, understanding, and meaning, rather than product. The sample was purposeful and non-probabilistic. The primary participants were 11 GTAs new to the physical activity instruction program at a public university in the United States. I led a three-hour constructivist-oriented training session with this group in the week preceding the fall semester, and observed each GTA teach on three occasions, offering feedback, mentoring, and support. I conducted one-on-one semi-structured interviews with each GTA, two undergraduate students taught by each GTA, and the director of physical activity instruction. I analyzed the data (observation field notes, interview transcriptions, orientation/training documents, lesson plans, and syllabi) using constant comparison. The training/mentoring intervention enhanced the ability of most GTAs to align SLOs, learning cues, and feedback in the execution (although much less so in the written planning) of their lessons. Most of the new teachers shared that the training session reduced their anxiety regarding their upcoming teaching assignment, and nearly all agreed or strongly agreed that the training had been useful, had increased their pedagogical knowledge, and had increased their self-confidence regarding their teaching. All the GTAs described the semester-long mentoring as beneficial, particularly because most were eager to receive feedback on their teaching performance. In turn, most undergraduate students interviewed expressed that they felt their instructor had been successful in presenting a well-sequenced curriculum that fostered their learning.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Constructivism, GTA Mentoring, GTA Training, Lesson Alignment, Pedagogy, Physical Activity
Physical education and training $x Study and teaching (Higher)
Graduate teaching assistants $x Training of
Constructivism (Education)
Mentoring in education

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