When in Rome: Socializing International Teaching Assistants into the US Higher Education Norms

When in Rome: Socializing International Teaching Assistants into the US Higher Education Norms

Gwendolyn M. Williams (Auburn University, USA) and Rod E. Case (University of Nevada, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9749-2.ch009
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Abstract

Mentoring for graduate teaching assistants (TAs) provides socialization within the higher educational system so that the TA can learn the expected benchmarks in knowledge and teaching. Furthermore, explicit mentoring approaches are significant for international teaching assistants who may not be familiar with methods and norms in American higher education. The authors in this article describe a qualitative study that examined how international teaching assistants viewed departmental mentoring strategies. After exploring various strategies of departmental mentoring and the ITAs' responses, the authors will conclude with general recommendations for effective mentoring strategies for international teaching assistants.
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Background

Formal teacher induction is needed in order to explicitly teach the norms of teaching which may be implicitly understood by domestic teaching assistants (DTAs) and their students teacher socialization can occur through several different forums, such as institutional orientation sessions (Gorsuch, Stevens, & Brouillette, 2003), departmental mentoring activities (Boman, 2013; Gallego, 2014), or peer mentoring partnerships (McDonough, 2006; Ryan, 2014;). For the purposes of this chapter, the authors will focus on the various departmental mentoring strategies that our participants described as contributing to their socialization into the higher education practices in the United States.

Socializing ITAs into the norms of higher education is based on the concept of legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Through such a model the newcomer, in this case the ITA, interacts with members of the community (e.g., the department and institution) in order to learn the skills and practices needed to be full participants in the community (Hasrati, 2005). Within the realm of higher education ITAs need guidance to understand the values and norms which undergird the pedagogical practices in American higher education. Such a socialization enables ITAs to be taught explicitly the expectations of teaching and learning in the classroom rather than allowing them to learn independently through a sink or swim method. Recognizing that ITAs may be unfamiliar with the local practices in higher education, universities and departments often step in to provide information about the procedures commonly used in their institution. Curtin, Stewart and Ostrove (2013) found that ITAs who received socialization from departments actually adjust better to teaching in the United States and interact more with other international students, thus making them more competent in intercultural relationships as they become more confident in their professional pedagogy.

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