Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

John Murphy


The significant role of Graduate Spanish-Teaching Assistants (GSTAs) in Spanish as a foreign language programs at North American universities has not been matched by the development and support efforts of those programs. That is, GSTAs are at the forefront of the introductory and intermediate Spanish courses while receiving very limited support. At the same time, and in spite numerous research focused on graduate teaching assistants, efforts to explore what these novice teachers know, the sources of their knowledge, and how such knowledge may be informing their teaching practices, have been minimal. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to gain further understanding of the personal practical knowledge (PPK) of inexperienced GSTAs as compared to that of experienced GSTAs. The categories of PPK found in the data were: knowledge of self, knowledge of students, knowledge of instruction, knowledge of subject matter, knowledge of purpose, and knowledge of context. The project consisted of eight case studies (four experienced GSTAs and four inexperienced GSTAs), with a qualitative approach to the collection of data. The sources of data were: semi structured interviews, classroom observations, reflective journals, and stimulated recall. Findings revealed that the PPK of experienced and inexperienced GSTAs is complex, contextual, interconnected, experiential, and constantly evolving. Knowledge of students was consistently the most salient and influential area of the PPK of all participants, and it informed more pedagogical choices than the remaining areas. The knowledge of instruction of the experienced GSTAs was found to be more developed than that of the inexperienced group, and they also relied more on experience than their new counterparts. However, the first-time GSTAs were able to work collaborative and thus accelerated the development of their knowledge of instruction while aiding their teaching practice.