THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF AN EDUCATIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION

I. Van Hemelrijck, E. Londers, M. Burman, C. Suttels, Y. Berbers

KU Leuven, Faculty of Engineering Science (BELGIUM)
The Faculty of Engineering Science at KU Leuven has over ten years of experience in providing an educational training programme for teaching assistants (TAs), usually PhD students with a teaching assignment. In September 2014, the new training programme SWEET² or ‘Starters Week of Engineering and Education: Training for TAs’ was introduced. This didactic programme aims at offering TAs support and guidelines for their teaching assignment. Besides enhancing the TAs’ teaching skills, the improvement of the quality of education is aspired. The guiding principle in developing this TA training is the ‘teach as you preach’ principle.

SWEET² consists of a number of thematic training modules organised during the first week of each semester. Every training module consists of two 2-hour sessions and two corresponding preparatory assignments. These sessions focus on dealing with frequently occurring problems, activating students, providing feedback, and the implementation of modern technology in the teaching practice. The first session strives for providing TAs advice before they start their teaching assignment. During the second session, the emphasis is reflection on their teaching experience and feedback. In order to enable more interaction between the TAs and to facilitate peer learning during the TA training, we introduced blended learning by asking the TAs to make a preparatory assignment before each session.

According to the ‘teach as you preach’ principle, each module departs from one specific teaching format that corresponds to the teaching practice of the TAs, such as supervising exercise sessions or coaching Problem Based Learning. During the sessions the SWEET²-coaches utilise teaching methods that are considered desirable to be put into practice by the TAs during their own teaching assignment.

In order to adapt the modules to the needs of the TAs and maintain a high quality of education, a qualitative evaluation was conducted after each session organised during the SWEET²-weeks of September 2014, February and September 2015.

This paper will first elaborate on how the ‘teach as you preach’ principle was applied during the development of three modules: ‘Supervising exercise sessions’, ‘Guiding a Master’s thesis’ and ‘Coaching Problem Based Learning’. Subsequently the abovementioned evaluation will be discussed, as well as the future plans to use a more quantitative resaerch to investigate whether the TA training has a positive impact on the quality of teaching.