Study shows international graduate teaching assistants have unique training needs

March 14 2007

Edith Okoth, a graduate assistant in Indiana State University’s industrial technology education department, conducted a small research study which confirmed something she already knew. Training programs for international graduate teaching assistants have room for improvement.

“There is a shortage of instructors, and most universities are currently relying on graduate teaching assistants to fill in the gaps,” Okoth said, “but some of the teaching assistants lack pedagogical skills; and may be from different cultures or be non-native English speakers.”

An international student herself — originally from Nairobi, Kenya — Okoth was able to use her own experience to guide her research and identify, with her study participants, ways in which training can be improved, especially for non-U.S. graduate students.

“I found that the time when training was offered, which was only in the summer, did not accommodate those students who arrived in the middle of the academic year and therefore started their assistantships in the spring semester,” she said.

Okoth also found no method for improving training from year to year, because of a break in the communication cycle.

“Supervisors working with the graduate assistants didn’t have a way of communicating to the trainers to let them know if the training had been adequate or not, so the trainers had no way of knowing if improvements were needed,” she said.

Okoth presented the paper at the 16th annual Academy of Human Resource Development International Conference on March 1, in Indianapolis, along with co-author Davison Mupinga, associate professor of industrial technology education. The conference was hosted by ISU’s department of industrial technology education.

Okoth hopes that the results of her and Mupinga’s research will assist universities in developing effective training programs for international teaching assistants.

“Doing this research and presenting it at the international conference not only gave me an opportunity to apply the content I learn in my program to a real-life situation, but allowed me to contribute to my field early on in my career,” Okoth said. “I was nervous, but it was very exciting.”

In addition to presenting with Okoth, Mupinga facilitated a roundtable discussion, with Bassou El Mansour, assistant professor of industrial technology education, on cross-cultural training programs in the United States and Europe for expatriates working in Morocco.

Carole Yaw, assistant professor of industrial technology education, presented her research on e-mentoring in virtual education, which provides human resource development professionals and practitioners with insights into this emerging trend.

Yaw also facilitated a roundtable discussion on another of her research topics — career development and mentoring in human resource development programs.

George Maughan, interim associate dean of the College of Technology and director of the Ph.D. in technology management program, presented qualitative research which examined the cognitive processes embedded in self-explanations of automobile and motorcycle service technicians performing troubleshooting tasks and solving technical problems. Cognitive processes revealed include: self-talk, visualization, linear and hierarchical thinking, use of job-aids, rule application, and the learning incidences that occur through social contact.

College of Technology Dean Tad Foster gave the conference’s welcoming address.

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PHOTO: Mupinga and Okoth
Davison Mupinga, associate professor of industrial technology education, and Edith Okoth, a graduate assistant in ISU’s industrial technology education department, present their research at the 16th annual Academy of Human Resource Development International Conference, hosted by ISU’s department of industrial technology education, in downtown Indianapolis.

CONTACT: Davison Mupinga, associate professor of Industrial Technology Education, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2652, dmupinga@isugw.indstate.edu

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Edith Okoth, a graduate assistant in industrial technology education, conducted a small research study on training programs for international graduate teaching assistants, and presented it at the Academy of Human Resource Development International Conference, along with co-author Davison Mupinga, associate professor.

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