By Kelly Findley, University of Illinois
This study investigates the pedagogical views and instructional decisions of four, first-year graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in statistics. Insights from an initial interview and survey revealed that three of these GTAs wanted to prioritize goals related to statistical literacy and thinking in their introductory course. As recitation instructors, however, the GTAs began scaling back these instructional visions in their interviews as they documented (a) students’ struggles with basic mathematics, (b) students’ dislike for open-ended tasks, and (c) their own uncertainty regarding non-traditional forms of assessment. As became clear in later interviews, as well as analysis of their teaching, these new instructors delivered instruction that shied away from open-ended tasks and uniquely statistical questions, instead emphasizing computational mastery and procedural fluency. These findings offer implications for GTA and instructor training. New instructors may benefit from discussions about “productive struggle” and “formative assessment” that encourage them to let students grapple with tasks that may not have singular answers. Secondly, attention to parse statistical learning goals from mathematical goals may allow instructors to reassess what mathematical proficiency their students need.