Note: This is a student project from a course affiliated with the Ethnography of the University Initiative. EUI supports faculty development of courses in which students conduct original research on their university, and encourages students to think about colleges and universities in relation to their communities and within larger national and global contexts.

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Title:"Lucking Out" with a Good TA: One Lecture, Several Discussions
Author(s):Chary, Anita
teaching assistant
discussion section
transition to college
science literacy
Abstract:Some students in introductory chemistry classes claim to have been "lucky" to have been in a certain discussion section, indicating that although discussion sections all ought to cover the same material, there may be differences between them that students feel are significant. Pilot research reveals that in introductory chemistry classes for non-chemistry majors, some TA's teaching methods focus mostly on teaching chemistry, while other TA's cater their classes more towards students' academic performance and transition to the university learning environment. These TA's teaching strategies seems to reflect their attitudes towards TAing; in a small sample, graduate students taught in the former manner, while undergraduates taught in the latter manner. Quantitative research by Spinka & Kelter (2005) indicates that students prefer undergraduate TA's, but a qualtitative investigation of this preference remains to be undertaken. Therefore, the proposed research project seeks to investigate how chemistry TA’s teaching styles are signified both by TA’s and by their students within introductory chemistry courses for non-chemistry-majors through ethnographic methods. In the context of improving undergraduate education and US math/science literacy, understanding the teaching methods that are most beneficial to students in the basic sciences is paramount.
Issue Date:2008-01-01
Course / Semester:ANTH 411: Methods for Sociocultural Anthropology, Prof. Nancy Abelmann. This course introduced students to a variety of ethnographic methods. Students tried their hand at some of these methods through a focused project. I had students think about their semester-long work as "pilot research"; although they did write up a short paper on their findings (their "discuss" section of the database), the culminating assignment was a research proposal in which they envision building on their preliminary findings in a longer/larger project. In the beginning of the semester, students did some warm-up exercises not directly related to their projects (an observation, an analysis of a university document, and an interview) -- some students elected to remove these from their databases while others left them in because of their connection to the final project. Students' "question" and "plan" sections of the database include multiple entries as I encouraged them to continue to refine these over the course of the semester in dialogue with their own emerging findings. I also asked students to search both the U of I Student Life and Cultures Archives and well as this EUI IDEALS collection to find archives relevant to their pilot/proposed research. All students were asked to "reflect" on the research experience and to make "recommendations" to the University on the basis of their research findings. The course syllabus is available at:
Publication Status:unpublished
Date Available in IDEALS:2008-01-18

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