Date of Award

12-1-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

McIntyre, John

Second Advisor

Mallette, Marla

Abstract

The purpose of this mixed method study was to better understand undergraduate students' perceptions of international teaching assistants (ITAs) at a major research institution. For the purpose of this inquiry data were collected from surveying a sample of 436 of undergraduate students from different colleges and at different class levels. Survey data were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Through the qualitative analysis of the open-ended survey data, undergraduate students' perceptions were derived from their responses, which resulted in themes both established in previous research (e.g., language), and original ideas (e.g., learning to understand ITAs language). Qualitative analysis of the survey data revealed that undergraduate students' perceptions of ITAs were varied and complex. For example, one perception identified was the connection of language to pedagogic difficulties, while another perception focused on the interactive construct of communication. Further, the quantitative analysis revealed a statistically significant relationship between these two relational perceptions and undergraduate students who reported having experienced problems with ITAs in their classes. More specifically, students who indicated that they did not have problematic experience with ITAs were not very likely to articulate perceptions that were relational, whereas more students that did report having a problem in courses taught by ITAs articulated perceptions that involved an interaction (e.g., communication and language as a barrier interfering with pedagogic performance of ITAs). The findings from this study thus provide a critical understanding of undergraduate students' perceptions from their perspectives. In addition, the finding that language-pedagogy and communication were connected by undergraduate students who had encountered problems with ITAs, suggests that instead of ITA education programs addressing the challenges of accommodating the needs of individual departments and/or colleges in a university (Jia & Bergerson, 2008), ITA education would benefit more from focusing on language in relation to pedagogy.

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