Supporting Science Graduate Teaching Assistants and Undergraduate Learning Assistants' Teaching Professional Development

  • Eleanor V.H. Vandegrift University of Oregon
  • Nicola C. Barber University of Oregon
  • Alyssa Vitale International Society of Technology in Education
  • Terri Ward Oregon Department of Education
Keywords: graduate teaching assistants, undergraduate learning assistants, professional development, scientific teaching, experiential education, community of practice, mentorship


Despite evidence of the need to improve student achievement through active learning implementation across undergraduate STEM disciplines, many students struggle to meet academic expectations in college science courses. Additionally, many science instructors receive inadequate or inconsistent pedagogical training. Improved training in active learning is one of several elements that may support improved student learning outcomes in sciences.  Our institution, like many others, relies on graduate teaching assistants (TAs) and undergraduate learning assistants (LAs) to co-teach science courses. However, like other instructors, TAs and LAs may not receive adequate pedagogical training on implementation of evidence-based, student-centered pedagogies. Our program was designed to purposefully support trainees with professional development in scientific teaching through experiential education, faculty mentorship, and a science education community of practice. We found that consistent and structured pedagogical training provided LAs and TAs with an early introduction to best practices for inclusivity, active learning, and regular assessment. Through quantitative and qualitative responses, TAs and LAs reported that mentorship, a structured weekly journal club focused on pedagogy, and opportunities to practice new teaching techniques provided a valuable experience and prepared them for future professional opportunities.

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