Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Barbara Shircliffe, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Kleiman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Yee, Ph.D.


Training, TA, Mentoring, Professional Development, Transformative Experiences


Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are becoming increasingly responsible for undergraduate instruction in the landscape of higher education. These experiences may serve as a pipeline for career readiness and success in faculty positions. Yet, the experiences of graduate teaching assistants are largely unexplored. This study describes the perceptons and experiences of a selected sample of GTAs, including their perceptions of available support, and the role of that support in navigating potential disorienting dilemmas.

Existing literature suggests that disorienting dilemmas lead to transformative experiences through an internal process of critical self-reflection, but neglects the possibility of differential outcomes to disorienting dilemmas. Further, existing literature suggests that such challenges simply create a common, linear path toward transformation. Using qualitative data collected through participant interviews, this study offers an in-depth exploration of GTA experiences, while establishing ways in which these meet the criteria set forth in the literature for “disorienting dilemmas.” Futhers, this study examines ways that such experiences are mediated by GTA social and institutional support systems. By investigating the experiences of graduate teaching assistants, this study addresses a gap in the literature regarding the perceptions of the GTAs about their experiences in their role. Further, this study challenges an assumption in the literature about transformative experiences and offers insights into the differential outcomes may arise as a result of a disorienting dilemma.