Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




STEM Education

First Advisor

Dr. Cindy Jong


Learning does not only happen during dedicated instructional time, which also applies to learning how to teach. Teachers can reflect on their practice while working to continue to improve and develop their teaching skills. In addition to self-reflection, teachers can also learn from their colleagues to experiment with new practices and take others’ teaching knowledge into their repertoire. Understanding how these two processes function can lead to developments in teacher education and professional development, specifically for initiatives that seek to promote collaboration among teachers. Post-secondary educators in particular can benefit from collaborative and reflective practices to improve their teaching, especially given that these educators do not often have rigorous teaching training. To explore how teaching practices can be influenced by interactions with one’s community of educator colleagues, this work combines the recently developed refined consensus model of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) with Wenger’s communities of practice framework to explore how teaching knowledge moves throughout a community of educators. Taking an ethnographic approach that involves participant observation and in-depth immersion, a cohort of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in a chemistry department is studied to learn how teaching knowledge and practice are developed through experience in their cohorts of fellow GTAs. Specifically, this work compares the experiences of recitation and laboratory GTAs teaching in the same discipline and level of course: general chemistry. Observations of GTA training, weekly meetings, and instructional time are supplemented with data from semi-structured and informal interviews to determine specific features of this group’s PCK and the social factors that moderate its uptake by members of the group. Analyzing the knowledge bases that contribute to PCK reveals that the structure of the specific job these GTAs perform mitigates the development of their teaching practices, specifically their content knowledge, which is a prerequisite for developing PCK and therefore limits its growth. Possibilities for connecting this research into practice are explored, as is the benefit of the new framework that this study seeks to validate.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)