Mathematics Graduate Teaching Assistant Professional Development Focused on Implementation of Evidence

Mary Beisiegel
Associate Professor
Oregon State University

Need: Lecture-based teaching continues to dominate undergraduate mathematics, despite its negative impact on student success in STEM. Mathematics graduate teaching assistants (MGTAs) make up significant portion of the undergraduate teaching force, however they are often not adequately prepared to teach in engaging, inclusive, and equitable ways. Without robust professional development (PD) for teaching that focuses on active, engaged teaching practices, MGTAs often replicate the lecture-based teaching practices that they have experienced. Consequently, the lecture-based teaching culture is perpetuated, and undergraduate students do not receive the benefits of evidence-based teaching. We designed a PD program for MGTAs focused on engaged learning, inclusive teaching, and equity (ELITE PD). The ELITE PD program spans 2-3 years and be implemented at three collaborating institutions with differing contexts. MGTAs who participate in the program will be supported in making incremental changes to transform their teaching and broaden their understanding of equity and inclusion. Cohorts will be recruited from each institution and progress through a sequence of PD workshops, classes, and peer mentoring.

Guiding Questions: Our goal is to answer the following questions: How can the ELITE PD program support MGTAs to transform their teaching practices to be more engaging, inclusive, and equitable? What identifiable aspects of departmental and institutional cultures inhibit or support sustainable change? To investigate aspects of the ELITE PD program and whether it results in instructional change, we will conduct surveys, interviews, and teaching observations with both participating and non-participating MGTAs, as well as instructors, course coordinators, and department chairs. We will collect comparison data from MGTAs, faculty, and department leadership at three institutions that will not be implementing the ELITE PD program. In addition, measures of student outcomes will be tracked at collaborating and comparison institutions.

Intellectual Merit: This study will broaden the field of MGTA PD by providing researchers and practitioners with knowledge of how to support MGTAs in their transition from lecturing to engaged, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices. This work is transformative as it challenges the conventional practice of only providing MGTA PD during the first year of graduate study. The extended nature of the ELITE PD program will provide valuable insight into the factors that inhibit and support MGTAs as they transform their teaching. This project will also contribute to our understanding of the connection between departmental and institutional cultures and teaching practices.

Broader Impact: By improving instruction in undergraduate mathematics courses, this study will have an impact on undergraduate mathematics education and society at large. Preparing MGTAs to implement active, engaging teaching practices will improve student success in mathematics courses, thereby removing barriers that may impede students’ progress in STEM. This project will provide knowledge needed to inform how we can create lasting change in teaching practices through MGTA PD. We aim to design the ELITE PD program so that it is practical and beneficial for other mathematics departments. When MGTA participants graduate, they will be able to implement engaged, inclusive, and equitable teaching practices at other institutions, which will result in better outcomes for even more undergraduate students.


Mary Beisiegel, Oregon State University; Mary Pilgrim, San Diego State University; Rani Satyam, Virginia Commonwealth University; Rebecca Segal, Virginia Commonwealth University