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CBE Life Sci Educ. 2016 Summer;15(2). pii: es2. doi: 10.1187/cbe.15-10-0225.

A Conceptual Framework for Graduate Teaching Assistant Professional Development Evaluation and Research.

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Educational Research and Assessment, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115
College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
Division of Biological Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
Center for Life Sciences Education, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
Department of Biology, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132.
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.
Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.


Biology graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are significant contributors to the educational mission of universities, particularly in introductory courses, yet there is a lack of empirical data on how to best prepare them for their teaching roles. This essay proposes a conceptual framework for biology GTA teaching professional development (TPD) program evaluation and research with three overarching variable categories for consideration: outcome variables, contextual variables, and moderating variables. The framework's outcome variables go beyond GTA satisfaction and instead position GTA cognition, GTA teaching practice, and undergraduate learning outcomes as the foci of GTA TPD evaluation and research. For each GTA TPD outcome variable, key evaluation questions and example assessment instruments are introduced to demonstrate how the framework can be used to guide GTA TPD evaluation and research plans. A common conceptual framework is also essential to coordinating the collection and synthesis of empirical data on GTA TPD nationally. Thus, the proposed conceptual framework serves as both a guide for conducting GTA TPD evaluation at single institutions and as a means to coordinate research across institutions at a national level.

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