Jump to Navigation
dept services image

When to Supervise.. When to Mentor

When to Supervise...When to Mentor

Faculty who have had extensive experience supervising and mentoring TAs know that the complexities of teaching are not learned all at once. As TAs gain in teaching experience, they undergo changes in how they perceive their role [1], the types of concerns they express, [2] and even the way they define teaching and learning.[3] Progression through these changes can be expected in the socialization of individuals into any professional role, and an understanding of this process can provide a framework for educating the teacher-scholar. For example, one model suggests three phases in the development of TAs: Senior Learners, Colleagues in Training, and Junior Colleagues. [4] Each stage suggests a need for a very specific type of supervision.

Senior Learners denotes the initial stage in which TAs are usually closer in age and perspective to their students than to faculty, and have little or no teaching experience. They lack expert knowledge of the subject matter, the learning process, and the university system. To compensate for their deficiencies, they tend to adopt a single perspective with regard to their teaching or student learning. They lack the authority of an expert so they may rely on their rapport with students rather than knowledge, skill, or teaching strategies. TAs at this stage of development need the most supervision from faculty. They can benefit from weekly meetings with faculty, written descriptions of their responsibilities, and explicit direction from faculty. Also helpful are written guidelines on how to run a lab or discussion, teaching materials such as example problem sets and problem solutions, and ideas for small group activities.

During the second stage, TAs become Colleagues in Training This is a highly transitional stage in which TAs become more aware and concerned about their teaching abilities and are open to learning about and improving their teaching skills. As they begin to develop a sense of professional identify, they begin to adapt teaching methods to their own personal styles and to experiment with various teaching methods and strategies. At this point, TAs need encouragement from faculty to explore teaching issues, try innovative approaches, and learn as much as they can about teaching.

TAs in the final phase, Junior Colleagues, begin to view themselves as colleagues with existing faculty in terms of both their teaching and their research; these TAs need and seek mentoring. Mentoring can take many forms, including discussions about specific course content that is difficult to get across to students, collaboration on developing course materials, discussion of articles on teaching found in professional journals, working together to improve a syllabus, invitation for the TA to give a class lecture on a topic on which the TA has special knowledge, and hiring a TA to work with the faculty member on an instructional improvement grant project.

There have been many models describing the stages of the professional development of teachers. In general, all are viewed as hierarchical, yet cyclical, and can be briefly described as follows: stage one focuses on survival via the development of basic classroom routines and the establishment of the teacher as an authority; stage two involves development of and mastery of teaching skills and techniques; stage three focuses on discovering and meeting student learning needs with an orientation toward teacher as facilitator; and, stage four emphasizes the teacher as mentor with concerns regarding principles of learning, students as individuals, and teaching and learning as a synergistic process. [5,6,7]

Information about TA developmental stages can be put to very practical use. Awareness of concerns at each stage can help faculty sequence content of TA training orientations and seminars. Understanding the changes inherent in the TA role and in TA concerns can guide faculty in choosing appropriate supervisory approaches to use with TAs at the various stages of TA development .

For more information on this topic contact the coordinator for the TA Development Program.

References

(1) Sprague, J. and Nyquist, J. D. "TA Supervision." In Teaching Assistant Training in the 1990's, ed. R.D. Abbott J.D. Nyquist and D.H. Wulff. 39. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.

(2) Ronkowski, S. A. "Changes in Teaching Assistant Concerns Over Time." Paper presented at the 2nd national conference on the Training and Employment of Teaching Assistants, Seattle, November 1989. (ERIC HE 023 178; ED 315 012; RIE June 1990)

(3) Sherman, T.M. and others. "The Quest for Excellence in University Teaching." Journal of Higher Education. (January/February, 1987) 48 (1).

(4) Sprague, J. and Nyquist, J. D. "TA Supervision." In Teaching Assistant Training in the 1990's, ed. R.D. Abbott J.D. Nyquist and D.H. Wulff. 39. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.

(5) Fuller, F.F., and Brown,O.H. "Becoming a Teacher." In K. Ryan (ed.), Teacher Education: The Seventy-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. vo. 2. Chicago Universit y of Chicago Press, 1975.

(6) Leland, A. O., and Cohn, J. 4 Stages of Teacher Development. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 1991.

(7) Ronkowski, S. A. "Changes in Teaching Assistant Concerns Over Time." Paper presented at the 2nd national conference on the Training and Employment of Teaching Assistants, Seattle, November 1989. (ERIC HE 023 178; ED 315 012; RIE June 1990)

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2378
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-8395
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2828
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-3523
Aisha Wedlaw ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall
work805-893-4278
Breana Barakoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
work805-893-2972
faxfax: 805-893-5915