English Ph.D. Dissertations


Preparation of Graduate Assistants Teaching First-Year Writing at Ohio Universities

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Amy Morgan (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Committee Member)


This pilot study examines the new teaching assistant (TA) preparation programs used by Ohio universities, both public and private, that graduate students to staff first-year composition (FYC) classrooms. I collected information about the preparation programs and the components of preparation from in-house materials from each of the schools, including university and departmental websites as well as a survey that was sent to the Writing Program Administrators (WPA) at each institution. My main research questions were: (RQ #1) How are graduate students enrolled in English programs being prepared to teach writing? and (RQ #2) Is the preparation of new TAs in line with the available literature? I examined each of the fourteen Ohio universities that use graduate students as TAs to staff FYC classes based on all available data (RQ #1). Although there are many components that may be used in TA preparation programs, I chose to focus on are balance of theory and practice, standardized syllabi and day-to-day plans, pre-service orientation, preparatory seminars, observations, mentoring, and reflection. This includes looking at the in-house materials that were given as part of the survey response and in-house materials that are available online. It also includes general information about each university that was available on the university websites as well as the department homepages. Additionally, survey responses and answers to survey questions that were determined by researching each school are included. Some schools have much more in-depth materials available; therefore; those universities are discussed in much more detail. I compiled the information about each of the school by component and compared it to the recent literature and suggestions about TA preparation programs in English (RQ #2). The findings indicate that universities, programs, and individual researchers do not agree on the best practices for preparing graduate students to teach in FYC programs, but that Ohio schools are making an effort to make sure our first-year composition students are receiving the best education possible by preparing new TAs to the best of their ability. This can be seen clearly with the difference of what is being written about and what is actually in practice. This pilot study concludes by offering conclusions as well as suggestions for further research.