In the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, advanced language students have had the opportunity to work as Teaching Assistants for many years. The assistantship model has changed since its inception but the unique role of undergraduate TAs in language classes remains a key feature of our department. Professor Mattavelli, who became interested in teacher preparation and mentoring during her graduate studies, has been training and supervising undergraduate teaching assistants since her first year at W&M. This experience has been very positive and fulfilling. The undergraduate TAs with whom she had the pleasure to work are really extraordinary and embody very positive examples for students in beginning classes.
Scholarly research on undergraduate teaching assistants is still rather scarce and focuses mainly on peer-teaching in fields other than foreign languages (with the exception of some studies in German and Spanish). Professor Mattavelli decided to explore the topic more in depth and submitted a proposal to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) annual convention. The objective was to highlight advantages and challenges of working with undergraduate TAs from a two-fold perspective and called for the collaboration with an undergraduate teaching assistant. W&M student and Italian TA Antonella Nicholas worked with prof. Mattavelli on the development of the project and co-presented with her at the conference.
In their presentation, prof. Mattavelli and Antonella Nicholas examined the roles and responsibilities of undergraduate TAs and supervisors, discussed training and mentoring provided to the apprentice teachers within the Italian program and the Modern Languages department, and presented students’ feedback. They both shared their perspective and assessment on the teaching experience and offered examples for successful peer-teaching instruction. Antonella focused also on the importance of this teaching experience in terms of skills learned for future careers as well as personal and professional rewards.
The presentation was very well received by the audience and prof. Mattavelli is happy to share that Antonella did a wonderful job and received many compliments from other faculty in attendance. Overall, this was a great collaborative experience in the spirit of W&M’s faculty-student research projects and close mentorship.