Supporting Graduate Teaching Assistants’ (GTA) Continual Professional Learning: The Benefits of Using Action Learning
Keywords:Action Learning, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Agency, Reflective practice, Continual Professional Learning
This paper describes the design and delivery of a new programme of support for PhD students who act as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) at a research intensive university. Although much attention has been paid to programmes that prepare GTAs for teaching, this scheme was intended to prepare them for continuing professional learning (CPL) about teaching. In this sense, then, the underpinning rationale for the scheme is different to most GTA programmes, and this has implications for the pedagogical approach taken. The design of the scheme was based on the premise that ‘learning in academia’ (i.e. learning about academic work and developing one’s practice) is different from ‘academic learning’, which the PhD participants are both familiar with and successful at (Trevitt, 2008). It follows then that the type of learning most likely to lead to development of practice, is a work-based, experiential approach undertaken by those in other practice-based professions like law, medicine and (non-HE) teaching. The paper describes the rationale and design of a development scheme which aims to prepare and equip GTAs for continuing professional learning during the PhD and on into their later careers. The benefits for the action learning approach are explored, both in terms of what it might offer participants, but also in terms of what it might offer to educational developers as learning set facilitators.
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