Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Canada, mixed methods, post-secondary education, Professional development, program review, Teaching Assistant


Kustra, Erika


Bayley, Jonathan




This mixed-methods exploratory study investigated change in the conceptions of teaching held by undergraduate student teaching assistants (UTAs) at a comprehensive Canadian university. Twenty-nine UTAs working in a large (~1,600) mostly online course were surveyed before and after one 13-week semester. Ten UTAs from the survey group were interviewed early in the semester and again post-semester. The interviews were analysed through three lenses: Stages of Concern (Fuller 1969), a teacher-oriented to learning-oriented spectrum of teaching approaches (Barr & Tagg, 1995; Kember & Kwan, 2000), and a taxonomy of teacher characteristics (Feldman 1989, 2007). Literature on these frameworks was reviewed, as well as literature on the traditionally disparate roles of UTAs and graduate student teaching assistants (GTAs), the effects of professional development on teaching conceptions and approaches, and the effects of teaching approaches on student learning. The literature on professional development for UTAs in teaching and learning was limited, and there was a gap in the literature on UTAs working in roles that extend beyond the traditional into a more GTA-type role without participation in such professional development. UTAs were asked to rate the importance of a variety of teaching tasks. Quantitative results show that the UTAs rated the overall importance of all teaching tasks lower (less important) at the end of the semester, and there was a significant difference between their ratings of teacher-oriented tasks and learning-oriented tasks. The importance of learning-oriented tasks fell less than the importance of teacher-oriented tasks. Qualitative results show that the UTAs’ focus shifted slightly towards more learning-oriented concerns by the end of the semester, but that their levels of frustration were high. Results also show that the UTAs conceive of teaching in terms of the teacher’s characteristics and behaviours, rather than conceiving of teaching as a variety of tasks.