In this 21st century, leaders in education, business, and government are concerned about improving the quality of teaching and student thinking. Studies that explore the international teaching assistants' (ITAs) conceptualization of thinking and its teaching are very limited. Generally, such studies focus on the ITAs' communication skills, language proficiency, interaction skills, and classroom management. The present research study explores how eight ITAs conceptualized teaching higher-order thinking (HOT).
The purpose of the study was to explore how ITAs' conceptualized HOT and transferred their concepts into teaching. The objective was to explain the underlying process of the development of schemata and the conceptualization of teaching HOT. The grounded theory method associated with Glaser, being a process of conceptualization and a method of theory generation, fitted well for the study. Interviews and classroom observations were the predominant source of data collection.
The emergent model explained the underlying process of the ITAs' development of schemata and the development of their conceptualization of teaching HOT. The diversity and complexity of the ITAs' description of HOT showed differing levels of conceptualization of teaching thinking. Using diverse theoretical frames, the research study identified the levels of conceptualization. Research on intellectual development identified the ITAs' understanding of HOT in terms of the stages of knowledge construction. Four ITAs who reached the stages of independent and contextual knowledge construction showed a high level of conceptualization of HOT. Research on ITAs' learning orientations, motivation, and goals identified three ITAs' with intrinsic orientation, goals, and motivation toward achieving a high level conceptualization of teaching HOT.
Expert-Novice study identified three ITAs with high-level development of schemata and conceptualization of teaching HOT. Findings indicated correlation between high-level knowledge constructions with HOT; between intrinsic learning orientation, motivation, and goals with HOT; and advanced development of schemata of thinking with high-level conceptualization of teaching HOT.
However, findings from observation in the classrooms indicated inconsistency between the high-level conceptualization of HOT and the teaching of HOT. ITAs' pointed out various constraints in the translation of their concepts into practice. Some of the determining variables were training, institutional priorities, educational culture, and communication skills. The study concludes that a high-level conceptualization of HOT does not guarantee a greater capacity for teaching of HOT.
On Bloom's Taxonomy, the majority of ITAs' conceptualization of thinking and teaching falls in lower-order thinking. The research study serves as a reminder about the importance of training and teaching in HOT. It provides insights for the supervisors and ITAs' training programmers to plan and design guidance and instruction.