Need supportive instructor training: perspectives from graduate teaching assistants in a college/university physical activity program

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Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy






Background: In the U.S. college/university setting, physical activity courses are often offered as part of the general education program, where students earn college credits towards the completion of their degree program. These courses are typically taught by graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), who face several challenges in instructing undergraduate students. Often, GTAs are thrust into their roles without the preparation that traditional teachers receive as customary with education degrees. Literature on need supportive teacher training, as part of self-determination theory, indicates that teachers including GTAs, can be successfully trained to meet the needs of their students regardless of years of previous experience. Presently, there is little information on the impact of such a training program from the perspective of the GTAs participating in the program.

Purpose: The aim of this study is to provide in-depth perspectives on need supportive training through examination of GTAs reflections of the training process.

Participants and setting: Fourteen GTAs from a university physical activity and healthful living program were recruited for this study, but two dropped out. All participants taught one of the following courses: aerobics, basketball, body conditioning, bowling, flag football, golf, racquetball, soccer, tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, or yoga.

Data collection: Teaching reflections were written by participants at the end of a year-long training program.

Data analyses: Written reflections completed by the GTAs were analyzed via content analysis. Data were organized by how strategies were implemented, most/least successful use of the strategies, and adherence to the training. Once organized, the data was examined by two different researchers independently and themes were shared with participants as part of the member checking process. Searches for negative cases were utilized during the analysis process as well.

Findings: Across the data, it was determined that the GTAs felt the training to be beneficial, influencing much of how they worked with students. Results suggested that GTAs found several ways to implement the reviewed need supportive teaching strategies, including giving students the choice of activities and group membership. They were also able to better respond to students’ negative affect and give explanatory rationales. Goal setting was a consistently used strategy by the GTAs; however, it was cited as one of the least successful strategies due to the inability to effectively follow-up on the goals made during classes with the students. Additionally, it was noted that the GTAs had difficulties with devising their own ways of implementing the strategies and relied heavily on the examples that were provided during their training sessions.

Conclusion: In better understanding, the perceptions of GTAs who engage in need supportive training programs, researchers can better gauge the effectiveness of such programs and how they can be improved. Future research should focus on how to help GTAs to engage in more creative ways of using need supportive teaching strategies in physical activity environments.


Copyright and Open Access:https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/id/publication/5941