Analyzing impacts of teaching preparation for graduate student teachers of inquiry-based biology laboratory courses
Miller, Kristen Regina
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A prominent trend in higher education instruction is that of graduate students teaching undergraduate courses. It is equally as common for these novice teachers to undertake their assignments with limited teaching preparation. The purpose of this dissertation study was to analyze impacts of a pedagogically specific teaching preparation program for graduate student teachers of inquiry-based biology laboratory courses. Data analysis focused on the graduate student teachers, but impacts on student classroom behaviors were also examined. Four science graduate students assigned to teach laboratory sections of an undergraduate, non-science majors’ biology laboratory course participated in this one-semester study. Data were collected and analyzed primarily using qualitative research methods. Analysis of data indicated that commonalities exist across graduate laboratory assistants’ (GLAs) reported benefits to their teaching characteristics from the preparation program (e.g., improved abilities to teach in ways that enable students to build understanding of science as inquiry; improved teaching confidence). Commonalities also exist across the GLAs’ reported actions of the preparation that impacted these teaching characteristics (e.g., reflective practice; peer and mentor observations). Additionally, the research examined how the actual teaching experience appeared to impact development of desired pedagogical attributes of teaching science as inquiry. Three of the four GLAs were able to develop pedagogically appropriate conceptualizations of teaching science as inquiry and successfully enact them, but the fourth was only able to conceptualize inquiry in relation to his work as a scientist and demonstrated less success in implementing his limited ideas of teaching science as inquiry. Student observation data suggest that the development and enactment of inquiry behaviors is unrelated to teachers’ enactment of various conceptualizations of teaching science as inquiry. Interpretation of results suggests that new teachers are capable of enacting reform-based biology teaching, and this form of teaching can be enhanced by providing pedagogically specific teaching preparation. However, the context of the teaching classroom, including the nature of the students and the nature of the goals of the course, can also have a great influence on the actual enactment of teaching regardless.