“STEM is vital to the growth and innovation of our society, yet students are leaving STEM degree programs at an alarming rate, often as a result of ineffective teaching,” Ke said. “Since graduate teaching assistants are the next generation of STEM instructors, it is important we meet the current attrition rate challenges by preparing them not only to become researchers, but also instructors.”
The training of current and future college and university instructors is critical to any adoption of teaching or curriculum reforms. Yet graduate students who are both trained for and pushed toward academic jobs remain unprepared for a key responsibility of these jobs: teaching. Florida State University studied the design model and effects of a mixed reality integrated training program to provide teaching practice to STEM graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). Integrating 3D virtual reality and body sensory technology, this training program for STEM GTAs extended the research and development of current STEM GTA training by enabling STEM GTAs to practice, observe, and reflect on teaching in a variety of instructional settings, and it provided them with a deep understanding of teaching strategies through active experimentation and problem solving. The resulting STEM GTA teaching training model was anticipated to improve teaching in introductory STEM courses, to improve the persistence of underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines by broadening the teaching practices used in introductory STEM courses, and to address specific challenges and needs associated with the variety of STEM graduate students.
The project employed an iterative evaluation process to improve the model over the course of the award, and the results informed understanding of the effectiveness of technology-integrated professional development for student instructors.
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