Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member

Dr. Dylan Dittrich-Reed, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Lisa Benson

Committee Member

Dr. William Bridges

Abstract

The American economy hinges on the health and production of science, technology engineering and mathematics workforce (STEM). Although this sector of the American workforce represents a substantially fewer jobs the STEM workforce fuels job growth and sustainability in the other sectors of the American workforce. Unfortunately, over the next decade the U.S. will face an additional deficit of over a million STEM professionals, thus the need is here now to fill this deficit. STEM education should, therefore, dedicated to producing graduates. One strategy to produce more STEM graduates is through retention of student in STEM majors. Retention or persistence is highly related to student sense of belonging in academic environments. This study investigates graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) perceptions of their classrooms and the implications of those perceptions on professional development. Furthermore, correlations between classroom community and student desire to persist, as measured by Rovai's Classroom Community Index (CCI) were established (P=0.0311). The interactions are described and results are discussed. Using a framework of teaching for community, and a qualitative analytic case study with memo writing about codes and themes methodology supported several themes including passion to teach and dedication to student learning, innovation in teaching practices based on evidence, an intrinsic desire to seek a diverse set of feedback, and instructors can foster community in the classroom. Using the same methodology one emergent theme, a tacit rather than explicit understanding of reading the classroom, was also present in the current study. Based on the results and using a lens for professional development, strategies and suggestions are made regarding strategies to enhance instructors' use of feedback and professional development.

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