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Wednesday, June 22 • 16:45 - 18:00
POSTER.62 - Graduate student learning: An empowering (side-) effect of a teaching inquiry grants program.

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Linking directly to the TAGSA conference sub-topic, we are investigating the experiences of graduate student Research Assistants (RAs) involved in the SFU Teaching & Learning Development Grant program. The formal and ongoing evaluation of the grants program (Hum et al, 2015) provides various data about projects and allows us to follow-up on interesting (side-) effects, such as the experiences of graduate student RAs.

RAs associated with the grants program are of two ‘types’: those hired by faculty to work on a specific grant project, and those who are hired by our Institute to be part of the team that facilitates the grants program overall. With their differing disciplinary contexts and backgrounds, we are interested in how involvement in the grant program contributes to RAs’ professional and personal development.

This empirical research employs a mixed-methods approach. Data arise from two sources: questionnaire data from 30 RAs who worked on individual projects; and semi-structured interviews with eight RAs (four from the individual project, and four who worked with the Institute). Descriptive statistics are used to describe the quantitative data, and inductive analyses (Thomas, 2006) serve to determine themes in the qualitative comments from both data sets.

Preliminary findings from this research-in-progress indicate a variety of experiences, both positive and negative. In reporting these data we argue that, despite this mixed bag of experiences, involving students in research teams is important (Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014), and is an effective way of providing experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) opportunities for developing and mentoring new researchers in the discipline of SoTL. In particular, we argue that such programs build graduate students’ capacity both in undertaking research in teaching & learning, and in their preparation as potential future faculty (McAlpine & Åkerlind, 2010). We also provide recommendations for how to support the RA experience.


Laura D'Amico

Research Associate, Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines, Simon Fraser University

Additional Authors

Angela McLean

Angela McLean, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Cheryl Amundsen

Cheryl Amundsen, Professor, Faculty of Education | Director, Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines | Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Irina Presnyakova

Ph.D. Student, Linguistics, Simon Fraser University

Odilia Dys-Steenbergen

Ph.D. Student, Social Psychology, Simon Fraser University

Wednesday June 22, 2016 16:45 - 18:00
Atrium, Physics & Astronomy Building Western University

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