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Investigating graduate teaching assistants’ perception of collaborative learning practices

Friday 5 July: Conference day three, 11:00am – 11:30am parallel session



Room 5 – 301-G050 Lg Chem



Dr Mark Gan
National University of Singapore, Singapore



One of the key challenges in higher education is catering to the increasing diversity in students pursing degree courses. While research has recognised the effectiveness of collaborative learning (CL) to enhance diverse students’ learning (O’Donnell, 2006), most of the studies have investigated senior or experienced teachers’ motives and purposes regarding their use of CL. There are fewer studies on how novice teachers, especially graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), understand and implement CL in their teaching practice. What are GTAs’ perception of CL as a teaching strategy and what fosters or hinders their implementation?

This study investigated the relationships of mindset, achievement goal orientation of GTAs, motivation to implement educational innovation and their perception of collaborative learning in their own teaching practice. A questionnaire was administered to three cohorts of GTAs (n = 74) prior to their participation in a two-day Teaching Assistant Programme. This formal preparatory programme is aimed at enhancing GTAs’ pedagogical skills and knowledge in facilitating collaborative learning (CL) in higher education classroom contexts.

To measure GTAs’ mindset, we used the scales ‘‘fixed mindset’’ (4 items) and ‘‘growth mindset” (4 items) from Carol Dweck (2016). The achievement goal orientation scale measures student mastery-approach/avoidance and performance-approach/avoidance goals using twelve items on a 5-point Likert scale (Elliot et al., 2008). The GTAs’ motivation to implement educational innovation and CL perception scales are adapted from Abrami et al. (2004), with items related to teachers’ expectancy of innovation implementation and beliefs on current teaching practices. Regression analysis revealed that the combined model significantly predicted GTAs’ perceived CL practices, R2=.574, F(9, 64)=9.58, p<.001. 

This roundtable sharing will involve participants in a conversation on the implications of the findings for academic development, by providing a summary handout with some question prompts, such as “Do GTAs’ beliefs about CL influence their adoption of CL strategies in their instructional practice?” “How do we support GTAs’ in developing CL instructional strategies?”



Abrami, P., Poulsen, C., & Chambers, B. (2004). Teacher motivation to implement an educational innovation: factors differentiating users and non-users of cooperative learning. Educational Psychology, 24(2), 201-216. (2004).
Carol, D. (2016). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. United States, New York: Random House USA Inc.
Elliot, A. J., & Murayama, K. (2008). On the measurement of achievement goals: Critique, illustration, and application. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3), 613-628.
O’Donnell, A. M. (2006). The role of peers and group learning. In P. Alexander & P. Winne (Eds)., Handbook of educational psychology, 2nd Edition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Presentation topic

Academics – Academic Development

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