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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In Spring 2016, the Graduate Student Development (GSD) team administered a survey to all graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Of the university’s approximately 11,000 enrolled graduate students, 1,289 responded to the survey. Students from every college and school responded.

Key Findings 1. 55% of respondents reported having received some kind of training related to teaching at UT. 43% indicated that they had not received any kind of training prior to beginning to teach. With close to half of UT’s graduate student instructors receiving no training, there is a critical demand for outreach and implementation of graduate student development.

2. 48% of graduate students reported being neutral or dissatisfied with teaching related resources at UT (i.e., departmental orientations, 398T, departmental workshops/events, workshops hosted by other campus organizations such as the Faculty Innovation Center and the Sanger Learning Center). Only 13% of graduate students were extremely satisfied.

3. Students expressed a need for teaching development programs that are practical and relevant, provide opportunities to be mentored, and enable community building. •

One particular program received mixed reviews. 398T, the departmental teaching training course for new instructors, was mentioned as both helpful and not helpful from various students. This may be attributed to the wide variety and lack of consistency across departments in the design and implementation of 398T.

4. Despite the growth of hybrid and online teaching in higher education, UT graduate students expressed little expectation of teaching in these settings in the immediate and distant future. Only 4% of students reported experience teaching in hybrid/blended environments, and less than 1% in fully online settings.

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5. Out of various training formats, graduate students indicated their most preferred format to be mentoring by experienced graduate student instructors, followed by multi-session trainings over the semester.

6. When provided with a list of 29 potential professional development topics, UT graduate students indicated the most need for training in the following topic areas: •

Creating questions that help students engage

Designing effective lectures

Preparing teaching materials for academic job market (e.g., teaching philosophy, CV, etc.)

Facilitating effective discussion sections

Creating an active learning environment

Providing a space where all students feel comfortable to actively participate in class

Motivating students

Recommendations 1. Because many graduate students lack teaching preparation at UT, and a large number report dissatisfaction regarding teaching development resources at UT, we have room to grow regarding both systemic teaching support for graduate students and culture change around graduate student teaching development. 2. Although 398T has been viewed positively by a number of graduate students, there is also a strong dissent against the course. Because of the departmental autonomy granted to 398T instructors, graduate student instructors’ perceptions of the course tend to vary widely. Greater attention is required to improve the quality and consistency of 398T across colleges, schools, and departments. 3. Teaching resources, experiences, and workshops should focus on cultivating competencies for effective hybrid, blended, and online teaching, given the ever-changing landscape of technologyenhanced instruction in higher education and the workforce.

4. Future teaching development programs should leverage the experience of seasoned graduate students via multi-session trainings and mentorships throughout the year. Topics should be delivered in a practical and relevant way with a clear focus on how to engage undergraduate students and promote active learning.

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GRADUATE STUDENT TEACHING NEEDS SURVEY Teaching and learning is one of the primary

of graduate students is imperative to ensure a

goals of higher education institutions. To

quality education for today’s postsecondary

achieve this purpose, there has been a long-


standing need to improve undergraduate education1, and graduate students who hold a

The Graduate Student Teaching Needs Survey

variety of teaching positions play a critical

was a campus-wide assessment to explore


role . Graduate students primarily serve in

the perceptions and experiences of graduate

three roles: (1) teaching assistants (TAs) who

students regarding their instructional

lead discussion and lab sections; (2) non-

preparation and training. The Graduate

classroom teaching assistants who mainly

Student Development (GSD) team of the

grade and hold office hours; (3) assistant

Faculty Innovation Center, a unit of Project

instructors (AIs) who design and teach their

2021 at the University of Texas at Austin (UT),

own courses as instructors of record.

administered the survey to all graduate

Moreover, teaching roles and responsibilities

students in the spring of 2016.

are an important socialization and training process for graduate students as they prepare for their careers 3. Whether graduate students

Study Method

pursue academic or non-academic positions

During the administration of the survey, there

post-graduation, teaching skills and

were approximately 11,000 graduate students

experiences are invaluable.

enrolled on campus. The interim Dean of the Graduate School invited students to

Over the past three decades, research

participate using the official email addresses

universities in the U.S. have implemented

of all enrolled graduate students. Students

professional development programs to

were incentivized to participate through a

enhance postsecondary teaching and learning.

random drawing of three cash prizes to

We refer to these programs as teaching

purchase academic-related items.

development (TD) programs throughout this report. Although the field of TD has established principles of effective teaching practices, there is a growing concern that college instructors have not embraced such proven teaching methods due to lack of time, incentives, training, and support 4. In addition, given the large percentage of undergraduate courses taught by graduate student instructors, understanding the teaching needs

There were 1,289 graduate students who responded to the survey, which represented 12% of the population. Of this group, 72% reporting holding teaching appointments at UT at some point. Students from every college and school responded. The majority of respondents came from the Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Natural Sciences, which is

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proportional to the number of graduate

Although there are a number of teaching

students they serve (Appendix A).

development programs for graduate students in the literature5, we focus on programs that are

Survey respondents provided demographic

implemented at UT. Information regarding

information including the following:

students’ perceptions of TD outside of UT,

department, time enrolled as a UT graduate

perhaps in prior institutions or through their past

student, and current teaching roles. They also

professional experiences, can be found in the

provided information about their teaching


experience prior to enrolling in UT, training they have received for their teaching positions,

Second, we discuss the topics of teaching

their levels of satisfaction with different TD

development training graduate students would

trainings provided at UT, their experience with

prefer to have in the future. We highlight the

teaching hybrid/blended/online courses, and

most requested topics of pedagogy, training, and

what they might be interested in learning more

preparation, as well as how they would like TD to

about through additional training.

be delivered.

The GSD team calculated means and

Third, we assess graduate students’

frequencies for the quantitative data (Likert-

perceptions of and preparedness for teaching

scale items) and identified themes that

in hybrid, blended, and online teaching

emerged in response to open-ended questions.

environments. Although a majority of graduate students may not currently teach in these contexts, the need to prepare instructors in these modalities is paramount given the rise of

Organization of the Report

massive open online courses (MOOCs),

This report describes the experiences and

synchronous massive online courses (SMOCs),

perceptions of teaching training and preparation

and other blended forms of online learning6.

of graduate students at UT.

This report contains a significant portion of the

In this report, we first examine the degree to

results regarding graduate student teaching

which graduate students prepare themselves

experiences and needs at UT, but if you are

for teaching, their satisfaction with teaching

interested in the full set of data, please

resources, and their perspectives on which


particular TD resources were helpful or not.

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TEACHING DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCES & SATISFACTION In order to understand graduate students’

Thirteen percent of respondents reported

perceptions of TD, we asked them a series of

being extremely satisfied with available TD

questions regarding their participation and

resources. Over a third of respondents (39%)

satisfaction with TD. First, we were interested

reported being somewhat satisfied with

in how many UT graduate students received TD

teaching-related resources, whereas 28%

and the degree to which they were satisfied.

were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with TD

Over half of respondents (55%) reported

experiences at UT. One-fifth of students

having received some kind of TD training at UT.

(20%) were either somewhat or extremely dissatisfied. In other words, 48% of students

Second, they responded to the question: “How

felt neutral or dissatisfied with TD programs.

satisfied are you with resources (e.g. training(s), online or printed materials,

For information about number of respondents,

mentoring, etc.) on teaching for graduate

mean satisfaction, and percentage of

students at UT?”

extremely satisfied respondents by college/school, see Appendix B.

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MOST HELPFUL ASPECTS OF TEACHING DEVELOPMENT A number of respondents who participated in

preparation and material” in 398T as “very

TD provided additional information in open

instructive and helpful.” Other respondents

text responses (n = 368). They described

emphasized the utility of the following

aspects of their training that helped them

aspects of 398T: learning “how to receive

feel most prepared for their teaching duties

feedback,” “writing a teaching statement,”

(“What aspects of your training helped you

and getting an “in-depth look at the most

feel most prepared for your teaching

effective teaching strategies.”

duties?”). Training in specific skills or teaching Mentorship and sense of community created

strategies was the third most frequently

through teacher training at UT was most

cited helpful aspect of respondents’ training

helpful to 47 respondents. One student

(n = 38). Respondents identified a range of

wrote that “reflection within a community of

strategies and skills specific to teaching in

practice” was the most helpful, and another

this category, including “engaging students in

noted that “unofficial mentoring from other

large classes,” “organizing discussions,” and

TAs and from my most mentoring-inclined

“how to prepare lesson plans tailored to [a]

instructor of record” was the most helpful.

specific topic.”

Mentioned by 39 respondents, 398T, the

Twenty-eight respondents mentioned the

pedagogy course that graduate students are

positive impact that feedback and

required to take before becoming instructors

observation had on helping them feel

of record, was the second most frequently

prepared for teaching.

discussed aspect of teaching preparation. One respondent cited the “two presentations

Finally, the fifth most frequently cited aspect

of mock teaching sessions” and receiving

(n = 27) was practice or hands-on experience

“detailed feedback on your presentation,


Most Helpful Aspects


Most Helpful Aspects


Mentorship and sense of community


Previous experience teaching




Classroom management training


Training in teaching skills & strategies


Information about University policy


Feedback and observation


Learning/motivation theory & research


Hands-on experience


Diversity & inclusion-related training


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LEAST HELPFUL ASPECTS OF TEACHING DEVELOPMENT Of the respondents who indicated participation

Twenty-one respondents discussed logistical

in some kind of TD at UT, 243 (40%) provided

challenges in their responses to this question.

additional information about aspects of their

These range from comments about “time

training that were least helpful in preparing

commitment” and the hour and location of

them for their teaching duties in responses to

trainings to the “outline and timeline” of

an open-text question.

training sessions.

Students mentioned that training was not

Thirteen respondents conveyed that their

helpful to them because it was irrelevant (n =

training was too generic and not tailored

32). One respondent wrote: “Because I wasn't

closely enough to their specific needs. One

leading discussion sections, only grading and

respondent shared that training was “far too

evaluating papers at the time, most lessons

general to cover all bases and grounds of what

weren't applicable to weekly duties,” and

I was going to expect,” and another wrote,

another indicated: “Not all techniques are

“Many of the greatest challenges of TAing are

applicable to all situations and classes.”

specific to the course, which is something that is difficult for a general course on TAing to

398T was discussed by 25 respondents as


being the least helpful aspect of respondents’ training. Students mentioned that 398T was

Several respondents addressed either a lack

not helpful to them because “it [did] not

of required training or resources in their

prepare for the actual teaching job” or was “an

responses to this question (n = 12). Students

obligatory waste of time.” Several respondents

cited a lack of formal training and “very little

noted simply that 398T was “not helpful.”

guidance” as being unhelpful to them in their teaching roles.

Least Helpful Aspects


Least Helpful Aspects







Lack of support


Logistical problems


Lack of practice opportunities


Too generic




Lack of training or resources




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IMPROVEMENTS TO TEACHING DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCES A little over a fifth of respondents (21%) provided information about what could have been different about their training that would have helped them feel more prepared to teach. The following quote illustrates many aspects that might improve TD experiences. At the planning stage, it would have been helpful to gain a more rigorous understanding of different theories of learning and pedagogy and how to apply those theories to different kinds of classroom practices. Having this kind of conceptual base would have made it easier to articulate clear class goals, and to organize my syllabus in service of those goals. As an instructor, having a firmer command of different approaches to teaching would have made it easier to experiment in the classroom with different methods—as it was, I feel that I relied heavily on comfortable routines because I was not always confident that I was experienced or knowledgeable enough to try new things. Finally, it would be helpful to have more opportunities for feedback and discussion about teaching throughout a teaching semester…Teaching is also time- and energy-intensive, so adding lots of extra formal requirements would probably be a bad idea, but maybe four meetings throughout the semester with other teaching graduate students, in which we would be responsible for coming up with an experimental lesson plan, testing it with our class, and talking about it with our peers, could be very useful for getting more input about teaching and for having an incentive to try out new methods in the classroom. Themes did not emerge as clearly in responses to this question as they did in responses to other questions because respondents tended to give very specific ideas about changes that could be made to their training. However, there were some common threads. Several respondents suggested the following: •

Be more practical (n = 13). Suggestions included: “Less learning theory, more hands on activities” and “I don't really need classes on pedagogy but it would be helpful to have had a nuts and bolts class showing me where supplies are stored, what are the expectations and how to be helpful.”

Enhance scheduling and logistics (n = 9). Among other suggestions, these respondents proposed that their training sessions be “shorter,” that class sizes be smaller, and that training be offered at more convenient times.

Incorporate more practice teaching (n = 3). For example, one respondent wrote: “Real classroom experience training” would have been helpful.

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GRADUATE INSTRUCTORS WITH NO TEACHING DEVELOPMENT Almost half of respondents (43%) indicated

to grade efficiently were both issues

that they had not received any kind of

addressed by respondents in this category.

training prior to beginning to teach. For the

Learning to manage incivilities in the

number of graduate students who indicated

classroom and basic classroom environment

that they had received no training by school

and management skills were mentioned by

or college, see Appendix C.

29 students. Several respondents expressed wanting to know how to handle “problem

A subset of these respondents (n = 268)

students” in this category. Others wrote that

provided additional information about what

knowing how to deal with “class dynamics”

they wished they had known before starting

would have been helpful to them.

to teach. The most prevalent response (n = 44) was some kind of training in basic

Twenty-four respondents discussed that

teaching strategies. The following response

having some kind of training in Canvas or

is typical of responses in this category:

other classroom technology would have been

“General preparation for teaching

helpful to them. A typical example of a

undergraduate students.” Other respondents

response from this category was: “I wish I had

addressed issues ranging from how to give

been trained in using Canvas effectively

feedback on assignments to how to lead

before the course started.”

discussions. Training in communication would have been A number of respondents thought that

helpful to 17 respondents. These responses

learning how to grade and address grade

ranged from a more general learning to

disputes would have been helpful (n = 29).

“communicate effectively” to “how to

Learning to grade using rubrics and being able

communicate with instructors about work duties.”

Training Topics


Training Topics


Teaching basics & strategies


Canvas and classroom technology




Communication skills




Handling expectations




Inclusive teaching


Classroom management


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PREFERRED TRAINING TOPICS AND FORMATS An average of 950 respondents answered

on a 5-point scale, with 1 being “extremely

questions about the topics about which they

unlikely” and 5 being “extremely likely.”

would like more training, regardless of their prior experiences in teaching (range of

The most popular responses for teacher

respondents: 932 to 972). Graduate

training format were: mentoring by

students rated interest in topics (on a scale

experienced instructors or TAs, multi-

from 1 to 5) in the following categories:

session series of trainings/workshops, and

basics of teaching

inclusive teaching

professional teaching identity

course design


printed guidelines/tips/resources. Training Formats


Mentoring by experienced instructors or TAs


Multi-session series of trainings/workshops


Across all categories, the top three areas

Printed guidelines/tips/resources


that respondents indicated they would like

Day-long orientation to teaching


Online resources (websites, videos, etc.)


more training on were creating questions that help students engage, designing

Drop-in office hours/consulting with a

effective lectures, and preparing teaching materials for the academic job market.

learning specialist

The areas that respondents were least interested in additional training in these

Online TA training


Multi-day orientation to teaching


Weekly or bi-weekly learning community

topics, were creating and grading assignments online, the roles and

with peers

responsibilities of a TA, and making the most

Semester-long course

of office hours. For tables that list all topics and means

across categories in order of most preferred to least preferred, see Appendices E & F.

Training Formats Respondents rated how likely they would be to participate in each type of training format

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1.83 1.54

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HYBRID/BLENDED & ONLINE TEACHING EXPERIENCE Hybrid or blended courses combine in-person,

Graduate students with hybrid/blended

face-to-face classroom instruction with

teaching experiences as a TA or AI reported

online learning such that time spent in the

the following responsibilities:

classroom is reduced. Fully online courses have limited or no in-person instruction.

Hybrid/Blended Responsibilities

Hybrid/Blended Teaching Experience

Holding in-person, face-to-face office hours

Only 4% of respondents (n = 54) reported

Freq. (%) 44 (81%)

Communicating with students via email

41 (76%)

course. The courses taught by these


40 (74%)

respondents included the following:

Facilitating in-person, face to face

being a TA or AI for a hybrid or blended


College of Liberal Arts (e.g., ARH 303

Monitoring/facilitating discussions on a

Survey of Renaissance through Modern Art; E 316M American Literature; PSY

discussion board

301 Introduction to Psychology) •

34 (63%)

26 (48%)

Facilitating group work

21 (39%)

M408K Calculus; CH 301 Principles of

Designing Canvas Modules

14 (26%)


Audio/video lectures

14 (26%)

Holding online office hours

13 (24%)

College of Natural Sciences (e.g.,

College of Communication (e.g., ADV 345J Advertising; RTF 305 Intro to Media Studies)

College of Education (e.g., ALD 322

Fully Online Teaching Experience

Assistive & Instructional Technology) •

School of Undergraduate Studies (e.g.,

Twelve respondents reported having been a

UGS 303 Italian Cinema; UGS 303

TA or AI for a fully online course (< 1%).

Sustaining a Planet).

These courses came from the College of Liberal Arts (e.g., E316 American Literature, ECO 304K Intro to Microeconomics, PSY 301 Intro to Psychology); and the College of Communication (e.g., RTF 305 Intro to Media Studies). Some of the responsibilities of TAs who taught fully online courses included:

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Communicating with students via email


Designing Canvas Modules


• •

Holding in-person, face-to-face office

Lastly, 19 respondents wrote that prior


training helped them feel prepared to teach

Monitoring/facilitating discussions on a

H/B/O courses. This ranges from

discussion board

“Instructional Design for Technology-

Holding online office hours

Enhanced Learning Workshop” to “My

Facilitating in-person, face to face

degrees and ability to emulate professors

discussions •

Facilitating group work

Audio/visual lectures

that I consider to be good instructors.”

Teaching H/B/O Courses in the Future Training Aspects for H/B/O Courses

Respondents were asked which of the following three options best represented

Prior experience, both in the classroom and

their anticipation of teaching H/B/O courses

elsewhere, was mentioned by 81 students as

in the future:

helping them feel prepared to teach in a hybrid/blended/online environment.

• Not anticipating teaching H/B/O courses as part of their instructional

Similarly, prior work as a TA or AI was


mentioned (n = 38) as helping respondents

• Anticipating teaching H/B/O courses

feel prepared for teaching in these

during the graduate studies


• Anticipating teaching H/B/O courses after receiving their degrees

Respondents also noted that previous familiarity with H/B/O courses as something

More than half (64%) selected not

that helps them feel prepared to teach in

anticipating having to teach a(n) H/B/O class

these environments (n = 36). Many of these

as part of their instructional responsibilities.

respondents mentioned “using Canvas” or

Students that anticipated teaching H/B/O

“working with Canvas” in this category.

courses after graduation made up 21% of respondents, whereas 12% of respondents

Twenty-six students cited their experience

reported anticipating having to do so during

as students in H/B/O classes as useful

their remaining time as graduate students.

preparation for teaching these courses.

Because the use of H/B/O courses may differ

Examples of these kinds of responses were:

by discipline, we also report these data by

“I've had such a class before” and “Having

school/college in Appendix F.

done a few MOOC courses myself.”

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Preparation for Teaching H/B/O Courses Out of 1017 respondents answering the question â&#x20AC;&#x153;How prepared do you think you are to teach a hybrid/blended or fully online course?â&#x20AC;?, few respondents reported thinking they were extremely prepared (4%) or very prepared (14%) to teach this kind of course. Graduate students feeling less prepared were as follows: 29% of respondents not prepared at all, 20% slightly prepared, and 33% moderately prepared.

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REFERENCES 1 Arum, R., Cook, A., & Roksa, J. (2016). Improving quality in American higher education: Learning outcomes and assessments for the 21st century. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss. 2

Zhu, J., Li, Y., Cox, M. F., London, J., Hahn, J., & Ahn, B. (2013). Validation of a survey for graduate teaching assistants: translating theory to practice. Journal of Engineering Education, 102, 426-443.


Boice, R. (1996). First-order principles for college teachers: Ten basic ways to improve the

teaching process. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing. 4

Connolly, M. R., Savoy, J. N., Lee, Y.-G., & Hill, L. B. (2016). Building a better future STEM faculty:

How doctoral teaching programs can improve undergraduate education . Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison. 5

Kalish, A., Rohdieck, S., Border, L., Schram, L. N., von Hoene, L., Palmer, M., Chandle, E., Maurer, V., & Volpe Horii, C. (2009). Structured professional development for graduate and professional

students: A taxonomy. Paper presented at the Professional and Organizational Development Conference, Houston, TX. 6

Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: ten years of tracking online education in the

United States. Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC.

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Graduate Student Teaching Needs  

In Spring 2016, the Graduate Student Development (GSD) team administered a survey to all graduate students at the University of Texas at Aus...

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