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A study of peer collaborative mentoring for the professional development of international graduate teaching assistants

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  • The purpose of this study was to investigate Peer Collaborative Mentoring (PCM) as a professional development model for international graduate teaching assistants at an American university. Data were gathered from interviews and observations of three American peer mentors (Intracultural Peer Mentors/IAPMs), five Chinese Graduate Teaching Assistants (Intercultural Peer Mentors/IEPMs), and 130 undergraduate students who were enrolled in an introductory course in chemistry from the IEPMs. Six categories were identified through an analysis of the data: (1) IAPM socialization; (2) dynamics of PCM; (3) gender; (4) language; (5) phases; and (6) benefits of the PCM process. Data in the categories were analyzed using two forms of triangulation: (1) investigative and (2) data source. The results of the study indicate that PCM is a developmental process in which participants (IEPMs and IAPMs) move through four phases (Induction, Empowerment through Collaboration, Reduction, and Termination) employing the concepts of reciprocity, mutuality, parity and cultural sensitivity. Providing this type of support system gave the IEPMs and IAPMs an opportunity to develop a learning community through the PCM process. During the study, the two groups of participants acted as cultural mediators for one another and for the students. The purpose of the mediation was to assist all participants in developing their cross-cultural skills and resolve issues that were germane to the quality of the teaching environment and the professional development of the IEPMs and IAPMs. The study provides a new mentoring model for teaching faculty that is responsive to professional development and cross-cultural communication skills. The model supports an environment where isolation and dissonance are minimized and collaboration and cultural sensitivity are encouraged.
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