Assessing the mindfulness attributes of teaching assistants assigned as discussion facilitators
Decker, Mark Lowry
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This study investigated the relationship between student ratings of teaching and the mindfulness attributes of teaching assistants in freshmen courses consisting mostly of discussion. Regression analyses were run to determine whether teaching assistant data (n = 19), related to their teaching efficacy, trait mindfulness, mindfulness practices, self-compassion, and teacher concerns, were predictive of student ratings of teaching assistants' combined scores on three concatenated Likert-scale evaluation items--the teaching assistant is kind and respectful of me, is patient with my questions, and is receptive to my questions. As modeled, there was no significant relationship between these teaching assistant characteristics and the components that were examined. A subset of the population (n = 6), participated in follow-up interviews. A comparative and interpretative analysis of the interview data followed, which examined the teaching assistant narratives using the following variables as filters--teaching efficacy, trait mindfulness, mindfulness practices, self-compassion, and teacher concerns--in addition to the metacognitive constructs of Knowledge of Cognition and Regulation of Cognition. Overall, the interview component of the study found that teaching assistants who could better articulate their teaching processes and instructional goals reported purposefully engaging in the internal and external dialogic processes of instruction. Moreover, interview analysis suggests that teaching assistant evaluations were a poor means of assessing instructional skills, aptitude, or performance. In addition, while the tools used in this study, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, the Mindfulness Process Questionnaire, the Self-Compassion, Scale, the Teacher's Sense of Efficacy, and the Teacher's Concerns Checklist, might reliably assess attributes of good instructors, they do not appear to capture the whole essence of one's instructional narrative. Whether it is through interviews, or intricate scenarios, instructional evaluation, especially when its purpose is to improve instruction, should have a qualitative and reflective component.