Interactions between teaching assistants and students boost engagement in physics labs

Jared Stang
Event Date and Time: 
Fri, 2013-11-01 16:00 - 17:00
Henn 318
Local Contact: 
hal clark
Intended Audience: 
Through in-class observations of teaching assistants (TAs) and students in the lab sections of a large introductory physics course, we study which TA behaviors can be used to predict student engagement and learning. For the TAs, we record data to determine how they adhere to and deliver the lesson plan and how they interact with students during the lab. For the students, we use observations to record the level of student engagement and pre- and post-tests of lab skills to measure learning. We find that the frequency of TA–student interactions is a positive and significant predictor of student engagement. Interestingly, the length of interactions and the frequency of the TAs going off-script are not significantly correlated with student engagement. In addition, we find that student engagement was a better predictor of post-test compared with pre-test scores. While TA–student interactions were correlated with learning, this correlation did not reach statistical significance. We discuss implications for TA professional development.
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