Date of Award

8-1-2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

First Advisor

Martin, Katherine

Abstract

In order to equip teachers for the complexity of their job, teacher education programs have shifted away from training teachers in exactly what to do, focusing instead on how to approach the classroom. Teacher educators are working towards programs that develop beliefs that directly and positively affect the actions of teachers in the classrooms (Darling-Hammond, 2006). One particularly interesting case of teachers-in-training are graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), because they are both students and teachers simultaneously. In addition, GTAs are often learning how to teach while organizing, managing, and instructing classes, with varying levels of experience, training, responsibility, and support (Jordan & Howe, 2018; Patel, 2017). Although there is a body of work exploring the roles GTAs play as students and in institutions (Jordan & Howe, 2018; Park, 2004), GTAs have not generally been examined as classroom teachers. This study explores language GTAs’ beliefs about teaching, how their beliefs connect to their practice, and factors that affect their ability to implement their beliefs using data collected through semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. The findings show that GTAs (1) describe, instead of state, their beliefs focusing on classroom atmosphere and communicative language teaching factors; (2) are able to demonstrate their beliefs at least some of the time in their teaching; and (3) report contextual factors, such as time constraints and departmental training, that both hinder and facilitate their ability to implement their beliefs in their practices. Based on these findings, it is suggested that GTAs be provided opportunities to explicitly identify and reflect on their beliefs, make clear and accurate connections between their teaching and their beliefs, and experience an appropriate balance of support and autonomy. These suggestions are made so that GTAs might be more successful in integrating their beliefs and practices in ways that allow them to fulfill their roles as students and teachers well.

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