Tracy Hodge - Work-Learning Outcomes for Teaching Assistants in the Science Division

Berea College

WCC Faculty Staff Grant

Tracy Hodge
Physics Department, Berea College
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Bio: Tracy Hodge

Tracy Hodge is Associate Professor of Physics and Department Chair at Berea College. She earned her BA in Physics from Rice University, and her PhD in Physics with a concentration in Infrared Astronomy from the University of Wyoming. Dr. Hodge has over 15 years' teaching experience at all levels of the physics curriculum and makes extensive use of active-learning techniques such as Peer Instruction and Context-rich Group Problem Solving. Her primary focus is on the impact of undergraduate teaching assistants in the STEM classroom. She has piloted the use of the Colorado Learning Assistants model in the introductory physics classes at Berea College, coupled with the SCALE-UP approach to teaching.

Project narrative

With support from a WCC Faculty Staff Grant, I developed a program to train and mentor Berea College Labor students who work as Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the sciences. The goals of the program were to (1) develop a mentoring program for science TAs; (2) to positively impact the learning environment in classes that utilize TAs; and (3) to measure the impact of an undergraduate teaching assistantship on the self-efficacy, vocational goals, and content mastery of science students at Berea College. The pilot program brought together both experienced and novice TAs to discuss legal and ethical considerations, common conceptual difficulties among science students, and active-learning strategies. The program had a positive impact on the attitude and confidence of the participating labor students. The TAs valued the experience and matured as teachers over the course of the year, which was evident in the reflections they submitted during the spring semester. The Labor Program provides a rich opportunity for students to grow as scientists and teachers, and the WCC grant allowed me to begin to see how I can more effectively integrate Labor Students into the classroom.

Project Results

The Work Colleges Consortium grant enabled me to spend a year working closely with labor students from across the sciences, and to better understand what it means to mentor undergraduate Teaching Assistants. The WCC grant also played a significant role in my ability to obtain a grant from the National Science Foundation’s WIDER program (Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-Based Reforms). This $297,000 grant funded a faculty development program designed to support the implementation of evidence-based instruction in first-year courses across the STEM disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science). One of the main focuses of the grant was the continued development of an undergraduate Teaching Associates to act as peer mentors who will be able to facilitate learning both in and out of the classroom. Faculty have implemented models such as Peer Instruction, the Colorado Learning Assistants program, and Peer Assisted Learning, which continue to serve our labor students through improvements in both mentoring and professional development.