Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Patricia J. Brooks

Committee Members

Joan M. Lucariello

Bruce D. Homer

David Rindskopf

Fran C. Blumberg

Subject Categories

Educational Methods | Educational Psychology | Higher Education | Higher Education and Teaching | Online and Distance Education | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


employable skills, undergraduate teaching, graduate students, teaching strategies, teaching approaches


College instruction tends to focus on imparting disciplinary knowledge rather than employable broad-based skills emphasized by undergraduate guidelines. The lack of emphasis on broad-skill development may leave many undergraduate students unprepared for the workforce. Graduate students who are future professoriate, are teaching undergraduate courses with various attitudes and strategies. This dissertation comprises three published studies that used data from two surveys identifying graduate students’ instructional strategies and approaches to teaching employable skills in their courses.

The first study asked whether graduate students teaching undergraduate courses (N = 114; 70.2% women, M age = 30 years) aim to teach employable skills in in-person courses using the Teaching Employable Skills survey. This survey is a self-report instrument for instructors, adapted from the Employable Skills Self-Efficacy Survey (Ciarocco & Strohmetz, 2018). The first study also explores whether self-reported teaching of the four domains of employable skills is associated with Teachers’ Awareness of Goals of Students scale (Saltzman et al., 2018; Whiteman et al., 2017), Approaches to Teaching Inventory (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004), and Likert-scale measure of teaching strategies. Instructors reported teaching communication and analytical inquiry skills more than collaboration or professional development skills. Graduate students who were aware of their students’ goals were also likely to emphasize teaching employable skills across all domains except analytical inquiry. With regards to approaches to teaching, a conceptual-change, student-focused approach is associated with emphasis on communication, whereas an information-transmission, teacher-focused approach is not associated with teaching employable skills. Despite instructors reporting lecturing as their primary teaching strategy, lecturing was negatively associated with communication and unrelated to other employable skill domains. On the other hand, active learning was associated with communication and collaboration skills, and utilizing research methodology was associated with all skills domains except communication (Che et al., 2021a).

In the second study, we examined whether graduate students’ self-reported participation in professional development related to pedagogy, teaching assistantship (TA) experience, academic discipline (psychology vs. other), and Big Five personality traits were associated with variation in teaching practices (N = 109; 69.7% women, M age = 30 years, 59% psychology). Graduate students who participated in professional development were more likely to have been teaching undergraduate courses longer and are associated with the Big Five personality trait of openness. Hierarchical regressions indicated that professional development is positively associated with student-focused practices and negatively associated with lecturing. TA experience (mostly restricted to psychology instructors) was positively associated with lecturing and negatively associated with student-focused approach to teaching. Psychology instructors gave higher endorsements to an information transmission, teacher-focused approach to teaching, lectured more, and were less likely to provoke debate than instructors of other disciplines. Regarding personality traits, both openness and agreeableness were associated with some student-focused practices, while conscientiousness was associated with an information transmission, teacher-focused approach and with practices aligned with backward course design (Che et al., 2023).

The third study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and examined how graduate students teaching undergraduate courses (N = 151; 76.8% women, M age = 29 years, 67.5% psychology) addressed skills development in online courses. The third study was a replication and expansion of the first study (Che et al., 2021a). Instructors completed the Teaching Employable Skills survey (Che et al., 2021a), the Teachers’ Awareness of Goals of Students scale (Saltzman et al., 2018; Whiteman et al., 2017), and Likert-scale measures of teaching strategies. Graduate students gave higher ratings and provided more examples of teaching analytic inquiry and communication skills than collaboration or professional development skills. Higher ratings on the Teachers’ Awareness of Goals of Students scale aligned with teaching employable skills. Utilizing research methodology, active learning, and online tools aligned with skills development, unlike lecturing/testing. Psychology instructors utilized research methodology and active-learning strategies less than instructors in other disciplines (Che et al., 2024a).

The three studies in this dissertation add to literature focusing on graduate students who are instructors of undergraduate courses, and teaching practices aimed at preparing their students for the workforce. The findings suggest an importance for graduate students to participate in professional development related to pedagogy, and for instructors to incorporate active learning and research methodology in their teaching across the curriculum to promote workforce relevant skills.