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Oregon State trains graduate students to be better TAs
Date:2/17/2010

duate student experience, and more specifically, what keeps some students in their graduate programs while others leave.

"There's a much lower persistence to degree completion rate among graduate students than there is among undergraduates," White said.

Part of White's research involved interviewing graduate students at OSU and MIT about their assistantship experience. She worked with John Nonnamaker of MIT on the project. White said it appeared that being a TA both helps and hinders graduate student retention. It helps, in some cases, because students reinforce their own learning through teaching but, she added, it can also add a lot of stress and strain to their lives.

"I had students in my office crying and telling me how woefully unprepared they felt," she pointed out. "They felt they weren't delivering the student experience they wanted to."

So when Mason approached her about helping craft a training program for graduate students, she was excited to participate. A year ago, they launched a pilot training program during which some 30 graduate TAs who taught introductory biology labs also attended a weekly Monday night seminar. The graduate students came from the departments of zoology, botany and plant pathology, microbiology, molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and biophysics and environmental science.

This year, a number of undergraduate biology teaching interns also take the seminar. The undergraduates either want to become teachers, or plan on going to graduate school and recognize they could benefit from the program.

White teaches the one-hour seminar, with assistance from two experienced mentor TAs. Topics may include creating a good syllabus, working with students who have disabilities, and dealing with academic dishonesty as well as dozens of other issues. The students also learn pedagogy, including how to probe critical thinking and engage students in collaborative learning.

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Contact: Theresa Hogue
theresa.hogue@oregonstate.edu
541-737-0786
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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