The objective of the first study is to determine if the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) facilitates development of faculty towards a more student-focused approach to teaching. ISW is a peerbased educational development program involving 24 hours of structured intensive instruction designed to strengthen instructors’ skills in planning, teaching, feedback, and critical reflection through a student-focused process. Over 70 faculty and staff members from Western have already completed the ISW workshop, and 12 faculty and staff have been trained as facilitators. As increasing numbers of colleges and universities are turning to the ISW to develop faculty and engage students, it is important to thoroughly evaluate the efficacy of this program. Using pre- and post-test measures as well as propensity matching, we will evaluate changes in instructors’ teaching perspectives and approaches to teaching.
Participants in this research project will be both new and experienced faculty from universities and colleges within Ontario. ISW participants will be asked to complete an online survey before and four months after completing the ISW. Some faculty will also be invited to respond to interview questions identifying which elements of the ISW led to changes in their teaching. This will enable in-depth qualitative insights into our participants’ views.
The second project seeks to demonstrate that a TA training program with significant intercultural content (Teaching in the Canadian Classroom) better facilitates the transition of international graduate students to Canadian academia than a traditional TA program without intercultural components (TA Training Program). We will assess how the two programs help international TAs prepare for their teaching role at Western by measuring changes in their teaching self-efficacy, communication apprehension, and use of effective teaching behaviours before and after the completion of each program.
At Western, 26% of graduate students, and approximately 40% of teaching assistants are international or new Canadian, (having spent less than four years in Canada). Our international TAs contribute significantly to the quality of undergraduate education, while they themselves are mentored towards becoming researchers and future faculty. We hope that the study will demonstrate that international TAs benefit more from specific intercultural TA training programs rather than general TA training programs.
Joint project with the University of Windsor, Centre for Teaching and Learning The third study will compare the impact of two types of teaching development programs offered by The University of Western Ontario and the University of Windsor, designed to enhance the instructional skills of graduate students and prepare them for future academic practice in Ontario and beyond. The first group of programs provide a broad, one-day orientation to teaching in the fall each year. (Western’s TA Day, and Windsor’s TA Academy). The second group of programs engage graduate students in teaching development over a longer period of time ranging from 18-30 hours (e.g. Western’s Advanced Teaching Practice Program). The existing literature indicates that program components of longer duration may have a greater impact on teaching practice. However, it is unclear what impact components of varying length may have, and whether there is measurable correlation between the degree of impact and the duration of the development exercise.
Pre- and post-test measures of teaching assistant self-efficacy, pedagogical knowledge, and approaches to teaching will be used to compare the impact of the two types of programs. In addition, qualitative analysis of focus group interviews with participating graduate students will be used to examine the impact of program components on graduate students’ teaching effectiveness.