An exploratory study of teaching assistants’ motivation for inquiry-based teaching in an undergraduate laboratory context†
Undergraduate science courses typically rely on teaching assistants (TAs) to teach introductory laboratory classes. However little research investigates how to support TAs to implement reform-based teaching in undergraduate settings, and in particular, what factors may influence TAs’ motivation to teach within reform-based instructional contexts. This qualitative study used an Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT) framework of motivation to explore: (1) TAs’ expectancy beliefs and subjective values of project-based inquiry laboratory contexts; (2) relationships among expectancy and subjective value of teaching and reported effort in teaching, and (3) factors (e.g., teaching beliefs, prior teaching and instructional experiences) that may relate to TAs’ motivation for teaching. Data sources included open-ended surveys and interviews of six purposefully selected TAs. Results revealed that TAs held varied views on their ability to be successful and their perceived value of teaching in an inquiry-based laboratory context. TAs’ beliefs and subjective value for teaching appeared to be informed by TAs’ prior experiences with inquiry and interactions with students. Results provide insight into what may motivate TAs to teach within inquiry-based undergraduate science settings. Results underscore the importance of reform-based instruction in undergraduate settings.