Graduate teaching assistants

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Graduate teaching assistants ethical training, beliefs, and practices
Branstetter, Steven A
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125 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Graduate teaching assistants -- Training of -- Moral and ethical aspects ( lcsh )
College teaching -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 117-125).
General Note:
Department of Psychology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Steven A. Branstetter.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
40512549 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L645 1998m .B73 ( lcc )

Full Text
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Steven A. Branstetter

1998 by Steven A. Branstetter
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Steven A. Branstetter
has been approved by
Mitchell M. Handelsman
Janis Driscoll
2.1. /99f

Branstetter, Steven A. (M.A. Psychology)
Graduate Teaching Assistants:
Ethical Training, Beliefs, and Practices
Thesis directed by Professor Mitchell M. Handelsman
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) may teach up to
60% of undergraduate introductory courses at some
institutions, in addition to large percentages of
recitations, discussion sections, and laboratories. The
increased utilization of GTAs leads to a number of
questions about the ethical concerns faced by GTAs. What
is known about the ethical training, beliefs, and
practices of GTAs?
This study assessed several ethical dimensions
facing GTAs in their teaching of undergraduates.
Graduate students in departments of psychology were
asked to provide demographic data including degree
sought, amount and extent of teaching training received,
and attitudes towards the quality of their training.
Additionally, GTAs were asked how ethical they believed
a number of teaching and teaching related behaviors to

be in general, and how frequently they practiced those
behaviors in their teaching. Results showed that GTAs
generally agreed in what they believed to be ethical,
with some exceptions based on age, gender, and other
factors, but varied widely regarding what behaviors they
practiced in their teaching, and in the amount of
teaching training and supervision they receive.
Moreover, several statistically significant differences
between what GTAs believed to be unethical and their
practice of those behaviors were found. For example, a
majority of GTAs surveyed reported that it was unethical
to teach without adequate preparation, ignore unethical
behavior of faculty, and grade based on the likability
of certain studentsyet the majority reported
practicing these behaviors at least on occasion. These
data provide support for the call to provide GTAs with
more extensive teaching readiness and ethical training
prior to assigning teaching assistantships.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend i
Mitchell M. Handelsman

This work is dedicated both to my mother, whose legacy
and pride survive in me despite her absence, and to
Kristi whose depth of love and friendship inspire me far
beyond my limits.

The author would like to thank the University of
Colorado at Denver's Graduate Research Opportunities
Program Grant, without whose support this work, quite
literally, could not have been done. Additionally, I
would like to express my sincerest gratitude to my
advisor, Dr. Mitchell Handelsman, for his guidance,
support, and for providing the structured freedom in
which I could make my own mistakes, and then learn from
them. My thanks also goes to my committee members for
their valuable feedback and insight.

1. INTRODUCTION.................................... 1
Ethics in Academia............................ 5
The Ethics of Teaching....................... 11
Psychologists and the Ethics of Teaching. 16
Graduate Teaching Assistants................. 22
Purpose of the Current Study............ 31
Training Issues.......................... 32
Ethical Beliefs......................... 32
Ethical Behaviors....................... 33
2. METHOD......................................... 35
Questionnaire........................... 35
Participants and Procedure.................. 38
3. RESULTS.................................... . 39
Teaching Responsibilities............... 40
Teaching Preparation, Competency, and
Training............................ 41
Attitudes Towards Training. ....... 42
Ethical Beliefs (Part I Results) . * . 43
Ethical beliefs and Training................. 45
Ethical Beliefs and Age................. 46
Ethical Beliefs and Gender . ...... 47

Ethical Beliefs and Year in Program. . . 48
Ethical Beliefs and Specialty Area. ... 48
Ethical Beliefs and Professional Society
Affiliation................................ 49
Controversial Issues....................... 49
Difficult Ethical Judgments.......... 50
Ethical Practices (Part II Results)... 51
Ethical Practices and Training............. 52
Ethical Practices ,and Gender........ 52
Ethical Practices and Age. .............. 53
Ethical Practices and Year in Program. . 53
Ethical Practices and Clinical vs.
Non-clinical Specialty Area................ 54
Ethical Practices and Professional
Society Affiliation........................ 55
Discrepancies Between Beliefs and
Behaviors.................................. 55
4. DISCUSSION................................... 59
RESPONDENTS................ 80
RESPONSIBILITIES................. 82

TRAINING........................... 84
FACTOR............................. 85
BEHAVIORS.......................... 91
QUESTIONNAIRE................................ 92
ITEM, PART I. ............................. 107
ITEM, PART II............................... 112
REFERENCES........................................... 117

Graduate students have played a large role in the
education of college undergraduates for nearly fifty
years (Moore, 1991). Within the past decade fiscal
restraints, limited or no-growth policies, and
unpredictable enrollment in universities nationwide have
resulted in funding setbacks (Keith-Spiegel & Koocher,
1995/1985) that have further expanded the reliance on
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs referring to any
graduate student who has any teaching or teaching,
related responsibilities) for undergraduate education.
At the University of California at Berkeley, for
example, GTAs teach over half of the lower-division
classes (The University of California, Berkeley, 1985).
Additionally, a large number of GTAs are serving as
primary instructors for recitations, introductory labs,
and discussion sections (Prieto & Altmaier, 1994). Thus,
GTAs have a great deal of direct contact and frequent
exposure to undergraduate students. Moreover, given that
undergraduates tend to relate more strongly to graduate
students than to professors (Moore, 1991), GTAs are in a

unique position to influence the quality of the overall
educational environment within the university system.
Increasingly, universities have been recognizing
their role in the ethical and moral development of their
students (e.g., Brown & Krager, 1985; Folse, 1991), and
have begun to bring into focus the unique ethical issues
within the profession of college instruction (e.g.,
Matthews, 1991; Tabachnick, Keith-Spiegel, & Pope,
1991). Contrary to this trend of general ethical
consciousness in academia, GTAs tend to operate with
little or no supervisionlearning by "trial and error,"
making undergraduates "victims" of their mistakes
(Moore, 1991, p.359). Some believe that graduate
programs give a "low priority" to ethics training, and
that the current model of ethical instruction is
"inadequate" (Folse, 1991, p.344). The low priority
given academic ethics and the potential victimization of
undergraduates notwithstanding, educators have only
recently begun to stress teaching readiness and the
ethical issues facing GTAs (e.g., Abbott, Wulff, &
Szego, 1989; Prieto & Altmaier,1994),
Despite the fact that the academic profession as a

whole has been awakening to ethical issues in college
instruction, that GTAs have been playing a larger role
in the education of undergraduate students, and that
GTAs may be making victims of unwitting undergraduates,
we know little about the ethical training, beliefs, and
practices of graduate students who teach at the college
level. If the university system is to fulfill its
important ethical obligations to society (Brown &
Krager, 1985) and prepare students who are sound
professionals (Folse, 1991), then GTAs, like the
professoriate, must be ethically responsible in their
teaching, advising, and grading.
There has been no formal assessment of how well
GTAs are doing in fulfilling their ethical obligations
to their students. We know very little about the degree
to which GTAs understand their obligations, or about
when and to what extent they receive ethics training.
Additionally, nothing is known about what behaviors GTAs
engage in, how ethical they believe their behaviors are,
to what extent they subscribe to the ethical codes of
their chosen profession, or how frequently they teach .
material with which they are unfamiliar, inexperienced,
or underqualified.

This study assessed these areas to understand
better how well GTAs serve the undergraduates they
teach, and appraised the ethical environment provided by
universities when they utilize GTAs.
The first section of this introduction section lays
the foundation for understanding the history and
background of ethics in academia in general. This Ethics
in Academia section evaluates the growth, and the
resistance to growth, of objective examination among
academicians and the importance of providing an ethical
learning environment in higher education. The next
section of the introduction considers ethical issues
specific to the duties of teaching within academia and
provides some examples as to why the ethics of teaching
may be different from the ethics of professional
practice or research. The next section reviews the
literature specific to the ethics of psychologists who
teach, and the applicability of the American
Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics to
teaching issues. Next, the expanding role of GTAs, the
ethical dilemmas faced by GTAs, and what is known about
graduate students who teach is evaluated. A
justification and explanation of the present study

follows this, and a presentation of the questions
addressed by this study concludes the introduction.
Ethics in Academia
Academia has traditionally been at the forefront of
the examination into, and commentary on, ethical issues
in medicine, business, law, journalism, engineering, and
a number of other professions (Keith-Spiegel, 1994).
However, for a long time the academic profession avoided
enumerated inquiry into itselfeffectively escaping an
examination of the examiners (Cahn, 1990; Rich, 1984).
This lack of exploration leads to an invisible
environment" of academic ethics, and resulted in its
study lagging far behind that of professional ethics
(Scriven, 1982, p.307). One scholar claimed to be
startled at how reluctant academicians have been to
address ethical issues (Kerr, 1994). As recently as 18
years ago, Redlich and Pope (1980) found not a single
publication on the ethics of mental health teaching, and
only scarce references to the ethics of teaching in
Popular attention to the decay of ethical behavior

in the professions (e.g., business, government, and
medicine) coincided with claims that the ethical climate
of academia had declined (Schulte, Brown, & Wise, 1991).
This coincidence led to finger pointing at the
university system (e.g., Lewis, 1997; Sykes, 1988), and
was followed by calls to improve the ethical environment
in higher education (e.g., Goodstein, 1981; Scriven,
1982; Callahan, 1982). For example, Callahan (1982)
suggested that there was a "vacuum" in the university
system when it comes to ethical issues (p. 335). He
indicated that the professions were concerned that
students leaving college were simply not adequately
prepared to deal with the ethical situations that would
arise in the professional world. Likewise, Goodstein
(1981) claimed that academia is charged by society both
to teach and model behavior that will equip students to
be responsible, ethical professionals. Brown (1985)
suggested that academia has an ethical obligation to
society to provide more than a "value-free... amoral"
education to the future doctors, lawyers, and scientists
of our world (p. 403). Others (e.g., McBee, 1982; Folse,
1991)' stressed that universities have more of a
responsibility to their.students than simply nurturing

their intellect, claiming that higher education should
also nurture the development of character, and prepare
students who are capable of producing services to
society that are ethically sound. Moreover, the
university system has been likened to a training ground
for all future societal leaders (Cahn, 1990) not just
for intellectual endeavors but for morality and
responsibility. Calls for the university to teach
"things that really matter," such as sound principles,
have also been heard from the popular press (Rutledge,
1997, p.73). Yet, the academy long resisted filling the
ethical vacuum with introspective insight regarding its
own ethical dimensions.
Perhaps the reluctance of academicians to turn the
focus on themselves was the result of some believing
that ethical standards are for practitioners and not
teachers (Goodstein, 1981). Another reason may be that
some have argued that those with sufficient knowledge to
teach need no additional qualifiers, and the limits of
their professional ethical code is adequate for' both
practice and teaching (Keith-Spiegel & Koocher,
1995/1985). Yet another reason for the reservation to
examine academic ethics may be that ethical violations

in academia are often seen as nothing more than
misunderstandings, misinformation, or miscommunications;
thus, academia requires no additional ethical codes
(Goodstein, 1981). Furthermore, as is too often the
case, ethics in academia are assumed or thought to be
common sense, and that inquiry into academic ethical
issues is unwarranted (Folse, 1991; Lumsden, 1993;
Matthews, 1991). Kerr (1994) claimed that the response
to his attempts to gather faculty at his university to
discuss ethical issues in academia was
that the discussion of ethics was best left to the
church; that ethics was a matter of personal taste
and anything goes in matters of taste with one
extremely important exception: a commitment to
scientific truth in the academic world, (p.10)
Regardless of the reasons, academic ethics have
traditionally been ignored until problems arise
(Scriven, 1982; Folse, 1991), at which time intense
criticism is leveled at the profession in the form of
"professor bashing" literature (Keith-Spiegel, Wittig,
Perkins/ Balogh, & Whitley, 1993, p.'xi). Books such as
Lewis' (1997) Poisoning the Ivy: The Seven Deadly Sins
and Other Vices of Higher Education in America, Cahn's
(1986) Saints and Scamps: Ethics in Academia and Sykes's
(1988) ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher

Education offer disconcerting views of the ethical
environment of academia operating unhindered under the
canons of academic freedom (Hook, Kurtz, & Todorovich,
1977). The growing derogatory literature portraying
academics as self-centered and lazy has done little to
induce faculty members into impartial self-examination
(Tabachnick, Keith-Spiegel, & Pope, 1991).
Nevertheless, the traditional paucity of literature
on academic ethics, and the reticence of the profession
to look inward, has been slowly changing in recent
years. However, this shift has not come about easily or
gracefully (Tabachnick. et al., 1991; Keith-Spiegel,
1994). Publicity in the popular press over ethical
misconduct in academia (e.g., Kekes, 1996; Rothman,
1997), in addition to professor bashing literature,
helped call attention to the low priority ethics
training receives in colleges and universities (Folse,
1991). In 1982 the Journal of Higher Education dedicated
an entire issue to examining the norms of the academic
profession, such as what it means to be a professional
academic, and who is to be identified as such (Schurr,
1982). The issue made several calls for academic codes
of ethics (Callahan,-1982; Schurr, 1982) and sought to

define ethical issues unique to teaching at the
university level (Dill, 1982; Baumgarten, 1982). For
example, Dill (1982) pointed out that professional
academics have a number of responsibilities including
research, service, and teachingeach with different
demands, leaving the duties and ethics of teaching
entangled amongst those of other responsibilities,
potentially to be overlooked or overshadowed.
These are a few examples of the attempt by the
academy to bring into view the previously invisible
environment of ethical issues in higher education. Yet
it was nearly 50 years after first forming a committee
on ethics, 5 years after the Journal of Higher
Education's solicitation for ethical enlightenment in
the academy, and after much debate, that the American
Association of University Professors adopted and
published a statement on professional ethics for
academicians' (AAUP, 1987) .
The gradual heightening of attention to academic
ethics is also beginning to reflect the long-known
scientific findings that the ethical environment
provided to college and university students has a

powerful influence on students' behavior (e.g., Brown,
1968; Moos, 1979; Newcomb, 1979; Cook, 1987).
Traditional students are attending colleges and
universities at an age that represents a transitional
phase of moral reasoning, and the experiences they have
mold their future moral and ethical reasoning (Turiel,
1969). Unethical teachers, like unethical psychologists,
unethical lawyers, and unethical researchers, can
inflict considerable harm (Cahn, 1986), especially to
students at this critical stage of moral development.
Unquestionably, low ethical standards can significantly
influence the quality of the education received by
college and university students (Keith-Spiegel &
Koocher, 1995/1985). For this reason alone it is of
paramount importance to understand and monitor the
ethical atmosphere provided within institutions of
higher education.
The Ethics of Teaching
Students cannot be expected to become responsible,
moral professionals unless they are witnesses to
advisors, professors and other models of ethical

behavior (Brown & Krager, 1985) Additionally, it has
been found that professors' personal behaviors stimulate
the attention and interest, and facilitate the teaching-
learning process of students (Long & Sparks, 1997).
Through this insight, the relevance of ethical behavior
among instructors becomes even clearer.
If the nature of academic ethics is to be fully
understood, an inquiry must begin with the primary duty
of the academician: teaching. To understand the moral
and ethical dilemmas facing university teachers is to
garner a glimpse into how ethical behavior is tacitly
taughtand therefore how the overall educational
environment is affected by ethical or unethical
behavior. However, the reluctance of academicians to
investigate their own behavior as teachers (Keith-
Spiegel, 1994) may have reflected the desire to keep
"such a dangerous instrument away from those to whom it
might apply with uncomfortable results" (Scriven, 1982,
p.308) In other words, academicians seem to have taken
a "what you don't know can't hurt you" approach to the
ethics of their teaching responsibilities.
Perhaps due in part to this attitude, the majority

of the academic ethics.literature still relates to six
general topics: (a) student and supervisees sexual
harassment problems, (b) supervision or dealings with
students as researchers or research participants, and
other scientific misconduct issues, (c) rights of
"subject-pool" participants, (d) teaching values to
students, (e) animal use in research or demonstrations,
and (f) unethical students who violate academic
integrity standards (Keith-Spiegel, Tabachnick, & Allen,
199.3; Tabachnick et al., 1991; Keith-Spiegel, 1994). The
vast attention given to research ethics and related
issues in the literature, combined with the motivation
to publish or perish, may have contributed to a
continuing emphasis on the scientific duties, and the
ethics of those duties, in academia. This emphasis may
be responsible for decreasing the motivation and
interest in teaching and teaching related issues (Bess,
1990 as cited in Burkett, 1991). For example, Black and
Bonwell (1991) suggested that, in general, professors do
not take the profession of teaching seriously. However,
it is primarily for teaching that academicians are hired
and paid in the university system (Shils, 1984), and
therefore the unique ethical dilemmas faced in classroom

instruction, grading, advising, and other teaching
related duties should be given equal emphasis in the
literature as the ethics of research issues.
Folse (1991) asserted that ethical teaching is a
prerequisite for ethical research and practice.
Moreover, because ethical considerations in teaching
reflect an elemental part of the "academic goal" as a
whole (Folse, 1991 p.346), inquiry into the ethics of
teaching should be weighed as heavily as the ethics of
professional practice or research. Kerr (1994) suggested
that there is an even greater need for a study of
academic ethics because there are more problems in
teaching than in research, due to the fact that teaching
is less subject to the attention and scrutiny given to
scientific and scholarly communities.
A number of edited books have sought to deal with
the lack of concentration on the ethics of teaching in
higher education (e.g., Shills, 1997; May, 1990). Keith-
Spiegel et al.'s (1993) The Ethics of Teaching: A
Casebook, for example, takes a detailed look at the
unique situations facing university teachers,
recognizing that situations faced by teachers in the
classroom are distinct from those faced by

practitioners. For example, professional practitioners
are not likely to be faced with dilemmas involving
grading of their clients, writing reference letters,
availability outside of "official" hours to clients,
lecturing and preparation, or client deportment in the
therapy room. Keith-Spiegel (1994) pointed out a number
of crises within academia with "ethical dimensions,"
including grade inflation, emphasis on research to the
neglect of students, and runaway academic dishonesty
amongst students (p.362)each distinct from ethical
issues faced by researchers of practitioners. Further
examples of how academic ethics may vary from
professional ethics include preparation and competency
to present material objectively, lecturing styles (e.g.,
use of profanity in lectures, oral plagiarism, and
twisting facts to suit one's purpose), and faculty-
student collaboration (see Keith-Spiegel et al., 1993).
Markie (1994) emphasized the responsibilities of
professors beyond those of scholarship and research,
suggesting a stronger focus on the duties of classroom
teaching and making the point that the responsibilities
of teaching are different than those of practice,
scholarship and research. Therefore ethical issues

facing teachers are also different. Likewise, Strike and
Soltis (1992) pointed to issues such as lecture
preparation and lecturing, grading, learning activities
and assignments, and faculty-student relationships as
ethically distinct from situations encountered in
professional practice or research settings.
> h .
Psychologists and the Ethics of Teaching
In 1983 the APA published ethical guidelines for
teachers of psychology at the secondary education level.
As of yet, however, neither it nor the American
Psychological Society has developed guidelines
specifically for teaching at the post secondary level.
Psychologists, especially APA members, who teach in the
university are held to the general edicts of the Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (1992),
of which only five paragraphs relate specifically to
teaching issues (APA, 1992). These references in the APA
ethics code seem, to some, as "too hasty" and appear to
be included only as "an afterthought" (Keith-Spiegel,
1994 p.363). Friedrich and Douglass (1998) asserted that
the ethical issues facing teaching psychologists are

only "tangentially" addressed in the current ethics code
Psychologists may be in a unique position, perhaps
more so than teachers of other disciplines, to influence
their students through their teaching, given their
knowledge of the process of persuasion and other
psychological aspects of learning (Friedrich & Douglass,
1998). This potential, asserted Friedrich and Douglass
(1998), arouses questions of an ethical balance that
needs to be struck between the "persuasive enterprise of
teaching psychology" and student autonomy (p.549). Given
unique situations faced by university teachers, and the
further possibilities for ethical dilemmas confronted by
psychologists as teachers:exacerbated by inadequate
coverage by the APA ethics codeit is important to
determine where teaching psychologists fit into the
current ethics code, and what is known about the ethics
of psychologists as university instructors.
The American Psychological Association's Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (1992)
specifically addresses teaching issues in five sections:
(a) 6.01 Design of Education and Training Programs, (b)
6.02 Descriptions of Education and Training Programs,

(c) 6.03 Accuracy and Objectivity in Teaching, (d) 6.04
Limitation on Teaching, and (e) 6.05 Assessing Student
and Supervisee Performance. The APA code has been
criticized as representing a diminutive proportion of
ethical problems in academia; Keith-Spiegel (1994)
argued that it "misconstrues and trivializes the nature
of ethical responsibilities of teaching psychologists"
(p.363). The remaining sections of the ethics code do
V -
not definitively speak to the range of responsibilities
faced by teaching psychologists.
In addition to the shortcomings in the APA ethics
code, Keith-Spiegel (1994) argued there are areas in
which, psychologists who teach have been entirely
ignored. For example, while the bartering of goods and
services between psychologists and clients is addressed,
the bartering of money and academic credit for research
and other assistantships between teaching psychologists
and students is not mentioned. Conversely, teaching
psychologists are included in areas that do not make
sense. For example, Standard 1.03 defining professional
relationships includes teaching psychologists in the
list of roles that are to provide service within a
"defined relationship or role" (APA, 1992, p. 1160). The

problem with this, according to Keith-Spiegel (1994), is
that a defined role within teaching is difficult to
establish because teaching takes place in many different
situationswith people who may not be enrolled in ones
class. Other teaching related issues such as competency
and scholarship are only briefly addressed, resulting in
a "general disappointment" with the 1992 APA ethics code
when it comes to speaking to psychologists as teachers
in the university system (Keith-Spiegel, 1994, p.368).
Lacking broad coverage of the ethics of teaching in
the 1990 APA code, Tabachnick, Keith-Spiegel, and Pope
(1991) conducted a survey investigating the ethical
beliefs and behaviors of psychologists who teach at the
university level. Stating that the profession of
teaching psychology at the university level "lacked
empirical data about what aspects of teaching are viewed
as presenting ethical dilemmas for psychologists, how
often those dilemmas occur, and how psychologists
respond," Tabachnick et al. (1991, pg. 507) surveyed
nearly 500 teaching psychologists about their ethical
attitudes and behaviors. Tabachnick et al. (1991) asked
about 63 teaching related behaviors, attempting to
discover how psychologists functioning as teachers

assimilated their ethical backgrounds and their
prevailing ethical code into their teaching practice.
Ninety percent of the teaching psychologists surveyed
reported engaging in behaviors such as teaching material
not mastered, teaching without adequate preparation, and
teaching personal ethics or values to students. In
general, teaching psychologists acted in concordance
with their ethical beliefs, with one exception: they
rated the behavior of allowing a student's likability to
influence grading as unethical (86.7% of respondents
rating the behavior as unquestionably not ethical or
ethical only under rare circumstances), yet 61.4% had
participated in this behavior.
Teaching psychologists had difficulty judging
several behaviors in terms of how ethical they believed
them to be, as determined by 25% or more of the
respondents answering "I Don't Know" to a behavior. For
example, how ethical it is to teach when too distressed
to be effective, to encourage competition between
students, and to sell unwanted complimentary textbooks
were difficult judgments for the teaching psychologists
surveyed to make. A number of behaviors emerged as
exceptionally controversial, especially a number of

behaviors relating to sexual issues. Among the behaviors
that received diverse ratings (i.e., ratings with SD >
1.25), were being sexually attracted to students,
engaging in sexual fantasies about students, requiring
students to use aversive procedures with animals, and
becoming sexually involved with a student only after he
or she has completed a course. These examples may
support claims that the APA ethics code fails to provide
a reference for the academy, its teachers, and its
students (e.g., Keith-Spiegel, 1994). Tabachnick et al.
(1991) concluded, "A crucial aspect of the maturation
and moral development of any profession is the
collective openness and dedication of its membership to
study and critically examine itself" (p.515).
It seems clear that university teachers face unique
ethical dilemmas (Markie, 1994; Strike & Soltis, 1992),
and psychologists as teachers potentially face
additional issues. (Friedrich & Douglass, 1998).
Furthermore, the regulatory code of ethics under which
teaching psychologists operate only tangentially relates
to their teaching duties (e.g., Friedrich & Douglass,
1998; Keith-Spiegel, 1994). Therefore, understanding the
ethical beliefs and behaviors of those who teach

psychology is critically important to evaluating the
overall ethical environment within the university
Graduate Teaching Assistants
In the late 1940's, Word War II veterans inundated
America's colleges and universities, taking advantage of
a United States Government incentive to re-educate and
employ former soldiers called the GI Bill (The Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1982). This
influx created a need for professors, instructors and
teachers to meet the growing enrollment (Ericksen, 1973.
as cited in Moore, 1991). The demand created a new,
expanded role- for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) as
cheap labor to perform a number of duties, including
independently teaching undergraduate courses (Moore,
In the last 50 years, GTAs have continued to play
an important role in the education of undergraduate
students (McGovern, 1993; Allen & Rueter, 1990; Moore,
1991). Although no formal national survey has been
conducted, GTAs are estimated to teach between 25%

(Monaghan, 1989; Black & Bonwell, 1991) and over 50%
(The University of California, Berkeley, 1985; Black,
1991; Nyquist & Wulff, 1987) of all lower-division
undergraduate courses. A 1997 survey of 153 graduate
programs in biology revealed that 97% used GTAs for
lectures or laboratories (Rushin et al., 1997).
Perkinson (1996) asserted that GTAs spend more time in
the undergraduate classroom than do full-time faculty.
In addition to being utilized more frequently in
the classroom, GTAs are also being asked to assume more
duties traditionally reserved for the professoriate.
Over 80% of.GTAs are expected to prepare and grade
exams, and over 50% write their own syllabi (Mueller,
Perlman, McCann, & McFadden, 1997). Less frequently,
GTAs are expected to design the course curriculum, order
text books, prepare and present lectures, monitor
student progress and assign final grades, all with
minimal faculty supervision (Nyquist, Abbott, & Wulff,
1989). In addition to the academic responsibilities, 97%
of GTAs are called upon to hold office hours (Mueller et
al., 1997) which typically involves acting as advisor to
their student on topics such as course material,
academic issues, graduate school, and even personal

problems (Moore, 1991).
GTAs are more frequently being seen as an
"increasingly important" (Folse, 1991, p.346) part of
the undergraduate experience and as a "critical
educational influence" (Moore, 1991, p.358). The 1991
National Conference on Enhancing the Quality of
Undergraduate Education in Psychology, sponsored by the
APA, recognized GTAs as an important factor affecting
the overall educational environment of the university
(McGovern, 1993). GTAs have even been referred to as the
primary support staff in undergraduate education, and
their quality of teaching influences both students, and
the university as a whole (Van Note Chism, Cano, &
Pruitt, 1989).
In conjunction with the growing importance of GTAs
and their influence in undergraduate education comes
extensive and direct contact with undergraduates, both '
in and out of the classroom (Perkins, 1996; Nyquist,
Abbott, & Wulff, 1989). Because of age and status
similarities, undergraduate students frequently relate
more strongly with GTAs than they do with professors
(Moore, 1991). In addition, research has suggested that
educators who have the most impact on students are those

with whom they identify and have more out-of-classroom
interaction (e.g., Gaff & Gaff, 1981). Increasingly, it
seems this type of influential relationship is between
GTAs and undergraduates.
Since GTAs are teaching, grading, and interacting
with undergraduates nearly as much as professors, it
seems logical to assume that they are also faced with
the same ethical situations (Folse, 1991) Moreover, the
way in which GTAs handle these situations should have
the same far-reaching impact on students' future
attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.
Although the literature on ethics in academia is
growing, reflecting concern about the ethical
environment provided by the university system, and GTAs
are playing an ever-increasing part in the overall
academic environment, little is known about how the
ethical atmosphere is- affected by the utilization of
graduate students as teachers. Where regulatory bodies
are in place that can monitor unethical behavior of
professionals (e.g., Ethics Committee of the APA),
relatively little is known about ethical violations
committed by graduate students (Mearns & Allen, 1991),
and there are no central agencies keeping tabs of

ethical transgressions of GTAs.
Although understanding the ethical standards of
teaching assistants has received little attention in the
literature, it has been on the minds of faculty members
(Mueller, Perlman, McCann, & McFadden, 1997).
Traditionally, graduate students learned ethical
decision making via a mentor/apprenticeship model, which
has proven to be inadequate (Folse, 1991). Cahn (1986)
asserted that the informal conveyance of ethics from
professor to graduate students has failed, and
Handelsman (1986) warned that teaching, ethics in such
informal ways (by "osmosis") could be a dangerous
practice. Indeed, over 90% of faculty members surveyed
claimed to have been aware of a serious ethical
transgression by a graduate student (Mearns & Allen,
1991). More recently, the issue of ethical teaching
practice has come to the forefront for many faculty
members, who see the matter as so important that 72% of
the faculty in Mueller et al.'s (1997) study said they
spoke to their GTAs specifically about these issues. Up
to 93% of faculty and 95% of students have been witness
to unethical behavior among graduate students (Fly, van
Bark, Weinman, Kitchener, & Long,. 1997), and 90% of

faculty feel a problem exists with graduate student
professionalism (Procidano, Busch-Rossnagel, Reznikoff,
& Geisinger, 1995).
GTAs are faced with unique dilemmas due to their
special position as both student and teacher, as
inexperienced classroom instructors, and as in-between
faculty and undergraduates. For example, GTAs begin
teaching with little or no experience (Lumsden, 1993);
teaching assistantships are often awarded on the basis
of financial need, out-of-state tuition status, or
factors other than experience or merit. Moreover,
assignment of teaching assistantships that are not
reserved for financial need are typically done on a
first-come-first-serve basis, and GTAs rarely are
allowed to select which courses they teach (Lumsden,
1993) Thus, Graduate students teach courses outside of
their specialty area, or teach material they have not
mastered. This unique phenomenon may lead to GTAs barely
keeping ahead of their students in terms of subject
knowledge (Black & Bonwell, 1991) .
Folse (1991) asked if the increased incidence of
unethical behavior among students and professionals can
be attributed to a lack of training at the graduate

level. Despite that fact that ethics training has become
an increasingly important part of training psychologists
because of the inherent risks of unethical behavior
(Handelsman, 1998), few graduate programs have policies
in place to deal with student deficiencies, such as
limited skills or ethical problems (Procidano et al.,
Due to the increasing presence of GTAs in the
classroom, and their potential impact, little doubt
exists that they must behave as ethical professionals.
To do this, many feel that they must receive quality
training, both in ethics and in the practicalities of
classroom teaching (Nyquist, et al., 1989; Folse, 1991).
Proper training not only enhances the experience of the
graduate student (Lowman, 1993) and prepares them for a
potential career as a university instructor, but it may
be an important investment an institution can make to
improve undergraduate education (Black & Bonwell, 1991).
As early as 1981 it was recommended that graduate
departments place more emphasis on training GTAs to
teach (Cole, 1981). However, training GTAs to be
effective instructors is neither widespread nor.
systematic (Rickard, Prentice-Dunn, Rogers, Scogin, &

Lyman, 1991; Lowman & Mathie, 1993). Black & Bonwell
(1991) found that only about half of the departments
that utilized GTAs provided any training whatsoever.
Although teachers at the primary and secondary level
spend a great deal of time emphasizing teaching
readiness, it is only in higher education that it is
assumed that teachers need no supervision, preparation
or introduction to teaching (Black & Bonwell, 1991).
Rushin et al. (1997) found that although many
departments utilize GTAs, most require no formal
training. When institutions do not take teacher training
seriously, the result is an exemplar of academia that
ultimately devalues the importance of teaching
undergraduates (Lowman & Mathie, 1993).
Despite financial and other restraints on extensive
teacher readiness training, the importance of providing
undergraduates with qualified GTAs has led to an
increase in training programs (Mueller et al., 1997).
Just over half of GTAs surveyed in a 1991 study (Gray &
Buerkel-Rothfuss) said that they had received some
training; an increase over a 1988 study (Lumsden,
Grosslight, Loveland, & Williams) that found only 42% of
programs utilizing doctoral level GTAs provided any type

of training program. Nevertheless, there remains little
uniformity in the training of GTAs. While many of the
programs that do offer training utilize manuals, each
emphasizes different areas of teaching. While nearly all
manuals deal with the practicalities of classroom
teaching (e.g., the first day of class, lecturing), only
half mention ethical issues relating to teaching (Lowman
& Mathie, 1993).
Graduate students who teach at universities are
faced with a number of unique ethical situations and
dilemmas. Although there are over 31,000 members of the
American Psychological Association of Graduate Students,
whose mission is, in part, to advance the highest
standards of research, teaching and practice (Mook,
1996), few new GTAs are aware of the new demands of
teaching (Lumsden, 1993) Furthermore, it is unlikely
that students realize there may be power or dependency
relationships between teachers and students that are
parallel to those between psychologists and patients
(Matthews, 1991).
Despite the view of many first time GTAs, teaching
success is not simply based on knowing the subject
matter (Lumsden, 1993), but also on ethical teaching and

the modeling of ethical behavior (Nyquist et al., 1989).
Well trained, ethical GTAs increase undergraduates'
rating of their overall educational experience (Nyquist
et al. 1989; Prieto & Altmaier, 1994). Furthermore,
given that GTAs have growing responsibilities,
burgeoning contact with undergraduates who more strongly
relate to graduate students than to faculty, it is clear
that a thorough understanding of how GTAs operate with
regard to ethical issues is crucial to assessing how
well GTAs serve the students they teach, and the overall
environment provided by the university system when they
utilize GTAs.
Purpose of Current Study
This study surveyed GTAs in graduate programs of
psychology about a variety of issues relating to ethical
training, as well as teaching and teaching related
beliefs and practices. Demographic and background
information includes age, gender, degree being sought,
psychology specialty area, professional society
membership, marital status, and ethnic identity.
The following questions were explored by this

Training Issues
Do GTAs feel they get enough training? Do GTAs feel
more or less training should be required? Do GTAs
believe that training in ethics or ethics codes for GTAs
are necessary? What experience in teaching do GTAs have,
and how much training do they receive? How often do GTAs
teach material with which they are unfamiliar? Answering
these questions could lead to better evaluating how well
GTAs are prepared to teach, and in what areas they need
more training.
Ethical Beliefs
What are the ethical beliefs of GTAs relating to
teaching and teaching related behaviors? Do GTAs feel
strongly about what types of teaching behaviors are
acceptable and not acceptable? Are there specific
ethical issues that GTAs find to be particularly
challenging? Understanding what behaviors GTAs believe
to be ethical and what issues they find difficult to
judge could help in comprehending where GTAs stand in
their ethical thinking, as well as contribute to
understating the overall environment of the university.

Ethical Behaviors
What teaching behaviors with ethical implications
do GTAs engage in and how frequently do they participate
in these behaviors? Are there discrepancies between
what GTAs perceive as ethical and the behaviors they
engage in? Understanding the degree of congruence
between beliefs and behaviors can lend insight into how
effectively GTAs are being trained and socialized both
to think about ethical issues and to implement those
Moreover, because it has been found that even when
graduate students are aware of the ethical principles,
they do less than they believe they should in terms of
putting their ethical principles into practice (Bernard
& Jara, 1986), it seems important to understand to what
degree GTAs beliefs and behaviors correlate, as a belief
in the unethical nature of a behavior may be moot in the
face of that behavior being practiced.
Because so little literature exists on GTAs and
their ethical background, no specific hypotheses can be
offered by this study. Rather, this study can be thought
of as a survey of the landscape. Nevertheless, the
following results are expected to reflect existing

(1) GTAs receive little formal ethical or teaching
training prior to assuming their teaching role
(Pennington, 1990; Black & Bonwell, 1991; Lumsden,
1993) .
(2) GTAs are left to sink or swim in their
teaching, receiving little supervision of their teaching
duties (Moore, 1991; Lowman & Mathie, 1993).
(3) Because of limited backgrounds in ethics and
formal training in ethical thought, GTAs will
demonstrate some discrepancy between understood ethical
principles and the application of those principles
(Bernard & Jara, 1986) .

The questionnaire used in this study was adapted
for use with graduate students from a similar instrument
used by Tabachnick et al. (1991) to assess the ethical
beliefs and behaviors .of psychologists as university
teachers, and an instrument used by Pope, Tabachnick, &
Keith-Spiegel (1987) to assess the ethical beliefs and
behaviors of professional practice psychologists. The
questionnaire consisted of two sections assessing
ethical beliefs and practices, a demographics section,
and a final section assessing experiences and attitudes
towards teaching readiness training. See Appendix B for
the full questionnaire. Part I asked respondents to
evaluate how ethical they believed 50 different teaching
and teaching related behaviors to-be for graduate
teaching assistants in general, based on a five point
scale (1 = Definitely Unethical, 2 = Probably Unethical,
3 = Don't Know, 4 = Probably Ethical, and 5 = Definitely

Ethical). Part II asked respondents to report how
frequently they had practiced the same 50 teaching and
teaching related behaviors in their duties as graduate
teaching assistant (1 = Never, 2 = Rarely, 3 =
Sometimes, 4 = Fairly Often, and 5 = Very Often). The
demographics section asked seven questions relating to
age, gender, program type (e.g., Ph.D., Psy.D.), area of
psychological study, year of graduate study, membership
, ,T
in professional societies, marital status and ethnic
background. The final portion of the demographics
section asked questions about training, experience,
supervision and background relating to graduate teaching
assist ant ships..
The version of the survey used by Tabachnick et al.
(1991) and Pope et al. (1987), on which the current
instrument is based, contained 63 questions relating to
six distinct areas relating to teaching: (a) in-class
issues, (b) lessons and evaluations, (c) outside of
classroom issues, (d) relationships in academia, (e)
responsibilities to students and colleagues, and (f)
issues unique to teaching of psychology. A number of
questions relating to each area were dropped for the
current survey due to irrelevancy to graduate.teaching

assistants. For example, questions about using
department resources to create a "popular" psychology
trade book, giving academic credit instead of salary to
student assistants, writing letters of recommendation,
and accepting a publisher's monetary rebate for adopting
their text were not included. Several items specifically
relating to GTAs were added, including question number
37: doing as instructed by a professor, regardless of
your disagreement or ethical concern; question number
44: ignoring unethical behavior of another graduate
student; question number 48: teaching a course outside
of your specialty area; question number 49: teaching'
without experience or training; and question number 50:
teaching without training in ethics. All questions
included were thought to reflect difficult ethical
questions specific to university teaching (Keith-Spiegel
et al. 1993), or questions previously unanswered in the

Participants and Procedure
All schools with APA accredited psychology programs
in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New
Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, North
Dakota, Kansas, and Idaho were included in this study
(APA, 1995) A total of 34 programs were contacted and
solicited for participation. Department secretaries from
each program agreed to distribute a cover letter, the
questionnaire, and a self-addressed, stamped return
envelope to each graduate student who holds or has held
a teaching their department. A total of
543 questionnaires were distributed among the 34
departments. Programs solicited for participation are
listed in Appendix C.

A total of 265 (49%) of the questionnaires were
returned. All but 4 respondents provided useable data,
and 3 respondents who provided data on Part I of the
questionnaire did not complete Part II, for a total of
261 complete questionnaires>for Part I and 258 complete
questionnaires for Part II. Characteristics of the
participants are summarized in Appendix A, Table 1. A
total of 96 men and 165. women participated in this
study. The median age of respondents was 28 years with
an age range of 21 to 59 years. The majority of
respondents (87.4%) were currently enrolled in Ph.D.
programs, with less than 10% (7.3%) enrolled in a non-
doctoral programs and 5.3% enrolled in Psy.D., Ed.D. or
other doctoral programs. Respondents, on the average,
were in the second year of their program (median year =
2), with nearly one-quarter (24.5%) in their first year
and just over one-quarter (26.2%) in their fourth year
or beyond. Over half of the GTAs reported being single
(56.9%), and 13.7% identified themselves as an ethnic

minority. The majority of respondents (85.8%) reported
being members of at least one profession society (e.g.,
APA, APS). Most subjects (82.8%) planned to make
teaching at the university level part of their future
Teaching Responsibilities
GTAs perform a range of teaching and teaching
related duties. Table 2 in Appendix A summarizes the
findings. Of the 261 respondents, 109 (41.8%) had
independently taught an introductory course in
psychology. Nearly half (46.7%) had independently taught
a laboratory course in psychology, and 157 (60.1%) had
independently taught a recitation or other course. All
respondents (98.9%) except the three who did not provide
complete data, had either independently instructed or
co-instructed at least one course in psychology during
their graduate education. Well over half (60.6%) had
independently written examinations, 89.3% have been
responsible for grading assignments and tests, 70.8%
have been singularly responsible for assigning final

grades in a course, and 91.6% have been required to hold
regular office hours.
Teaching Preparation, Competency, and Training
Consistent with the literature, GTAs reported
little formal training before assuming their
assistantships. Table 3 in Appendix A summarizes the
profile of GTA training and supervision. Approximately
one-third (31.4%) had been required to participate in a
teaching readiness course before entering the classroom,
leaving two-thirds to begin teaching in a university
classroom without any training whatsoever. Less than 10%
(9.9%) had participated in training after they had
started teaching. Only 15 respondents (5.8%) claimed
that they were required to have taken a course on ethics
before they initiated their teaching duties. Less than
one-quarter (20.7%) of the respondents said that they
were required to have taken, as undergraduates, courses
that they would instruct as GTAs. Also consistent with
the previous literature, GTAs on the whole were left to
sink or swim, with almost one half (47.2%) never being
required to engage in supervision with a faculty member

regarding teaching issues. A full quarter of the
respondents reported having been required to teach a
course outside of their area of specialty, and a
majority of respondents (88.9%) reported having, at
least on occasion, taught material they had not really
Attitudes Towards Training
Table 4 in Appendix A summarizes the findings.
Almost one half (46.4%) of the GTAs responding felt that
they received either barely adequate or inadequate
teaching training prior to beginning their teaching
assistantships. Only 19.5% said that their training was
definitely adequate. Those GTAs who received no formal
training before beginning their teaching assistantships
were significantly more rate their overall
teaching preparation as inadequate, %2 (4, N = 260) =
16.75, p < .01. On the whole (88.8%), GTAs felt that
training specifically relating to teaching issues should
be required before assuming any teaching duties.
Similarly, 69.3% felt that, at least in most cases, GTAs

should be required to take a course in ethics before
assuming their role as classroom teacher. Nearly half
(49.1%) felt that the ethical issues facing them as GTAs
are unique enough to warrant an ethics code specifically
for teaching assistants.
Ethical Beliefs
Part I of the questionnaire consisted of 50 items
relating to how ethical GTAs believed specific teaching
and teaching related behaviors to be in general. Part I
proved to have good internal consistency as verified by
Chronbach's alpha reliability coefficient (alpha = .89).
See Appendix D for a summary of responses to each item
on Part I. For the purposes of data reduction, a
preliminary factor analysis of Part I using a principal
components factor analysis with varimax. rotation was
used. This test indicated that 14 factors had
eigenvalues greater than 1.0. A scree test to examine
the eigenvalues indicated that 5 factors accounted for a
large percentage of the variability in ratings.
Therefore five factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.9
were evaluated, with a loading criteria of .30. Items

loading onto each factor are listed in Appendix A, Table
5. A Chronbach's alpha reliability coefficient performed
on the five factors suggested each had good internal
consistency (alphas ranging from .70 to .79).
Factor 1 (eigenvalue = 9.13) included 8 items
relating to systemic issues in academia; that is, issues
largely out of the hands of GTAs, such as teaching in
crowded classrooms, teaching with insufficient equipment
of materials for all students, and beginning teaching
without training or experience.
Factor 2 (eigenvalue = 3.4) included 6 items
relating to potential dual relationship issues between
GTAs and undergraduate students, as well as between GTAs
and faculty. Items loading on this factor include
accepting gifts from students, lending money to
students, selling goods to students, hugging students,
and asking favors of students.
Factor 3 (eigenvalue = 2.25) included 8 items
relating to sexual relationships and potential sexual
harassment issues. Items loading onto this factor
include dating an undergraduate student, engaging in a
sexual relationship with a student once they have
completed your course, engaging in sexual fantasies

about a student, using profanity in lectures, and
engaging in a sexual relationship with a faculty member.
Factor 4 (eigenvalue = 2.21) included 10 items
relating to issues of fidelity, justice and general
competence in teaching. Items such as teaching under the
influence of alcohol, using films to fill class time
regardless of their educational value, using illegal
drugs in non-teaching life, allowing a students
likability to influence grading, and teaching in a non-
objective manner loaded onto this factor.
Factor 5 (eigenvalue = 1.9) included 7 items
relating to veracity, confidentiality, and professional
issues. Items loading onto Factor 5 included disclosing
a confidence told to you by a student, ignoring
unethical behavior of faculty, ignoring unethical
behavior of peers, doing as instructed by a professor
regardless of ethical concern, and insulting a student
in their absence. A total of 11 items did not load onto
any of the five factors.
Ethical Beliefs and Training
GTAs were divided into two groups; those who had
reported receiving some training, either before or after

beginning their assistantships, and those who reported
never receiving any training. Each factor was averaged
and independent samples t-tests were run to determine
differences in ethical beliefs on the five factors
between those who had received training versus those who
did not. Due to the number of comparisons, an alpha
level of p = .01 was used for all statistical analyses
throughout this study. Results found that GTAs who had
never received any training were significantly more
likely to rate Factor 2 (dual relationship issues) as
more ethical than were those who had reported some
training, t (259) = 3.00, p < .01. No other differences
were found.
Likewise, GTAs were divided into those who had
reported receiving training specifically in ethics and
those who had not. There were no significant differences
in the ethical ratings of the five factors between these
two groups.
Ethical Beliefs and Age
Pearson's Product Moment Correlations were run to
evaluate the relationship between the age of GTAs and

their ethical beliefs on each of the identified factors.
Findings indicated that older GTAs were
significantly less likely to rate Factor 3 (sexual
issues) as ethical than were younger GTAs,
r (258) = -.16, p < .01. Age was not significantly
correlated with any other factor. Age, however, was
significantly correlated with year in program, r (257) =
.25, p < .001.
Ethical Beliefs and Gender
On average, males rated each of the 5 factors as
more ethical than females, with the exception of Factor
5, on which both groups agreed. To evaluate the
relationship between gender and ratings on the five
ethical beliefs factors, independent samples t-tests
were run. Results indicate that males were significantly
more likely to rate Factor 2 (x = 2.30, SD = .70) (dual
relationship issues) as ethical than were females (x =
2,10, SD = .56), t(259) = 2.56, p < .01. Additionally,
males were more likely to rate Factor 3 (x = 3.02, SD =
.70) (sexual issues) as ethical than were females (x =
2.61, SD = .56), t(259) = 5.19, p <.001.

Ethical Beliefs and Year in Program
To evaluate the relationship between GTAs year in
their program and their ratings of the five ethical
beliefs factors, a one-way ANOVA analysis was run. Year
in program consisted of 5 levels: (a) first year, (b)
second year, (c) third year, (d) fourth year, and (e)
fifth year or beyond. No factors significantly related
to a GTAs year in program. However Factor 5
(confidentiality and veracity issues) approached
significance indicating that more advanced students
tended to rate Factor 5 as more ethical than beginning
students, F(5,254) = 2.56, p = .02.
Ethical Beliefs and Specialty Area
GTAs were separated into two distinct groups: (a)
clinical service specialty areas (e.g., clinical
psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology),
and (b) non-clinical service areas (e.g., experimental
psychology, cognitive psychology). Independent samples
t-tests were run to evaluate differences between ratings
on the five.ethical beliefs factors between clinical
specialty areas and non-clinical areas. Results show

that clinical specialty GTAs rated Factor 1 (systemic
issues) as more ethical than did non-clinical specialty
GTAs, t(259) = 2.75, p < .01.
Ethical Beliefs and Professional Society
Respondents were divided into two groups with
regard to professional society affiliation: (a) those
who reported being members of one or more professional
society (e.g., APA, APS), and (b) those who reported
being not affiliated with any professional society.
Independent samples t-tests found no significant
differences in how professional society members and non-
members rated ethical beliefs. It was found that members
of clinically oriented programs were significantly less
likely to be a member of a professional society, %z (1,
N = 258) = 10.04, p <.01.
Ethical Beliefs: Controversial Issues
Issues that demonstrated a large variation (SD =
1.25 and above) were thought to be particularly

controversial; that is, provoking a wide range of
responses among GTAs. Table 6 in Appendix A summarizes
results. Those issues that proved controversial included
dating an undergraduate student (SD = 1.40), engaging in
sexual fantasies about students (SD = 1.32), encouraging
students to participate in your research projects (SD =
1.26), privately tutoring students in your department
for a fee (SD = 1.30), using drugs in your non-teaching
life (SD = 1.40). Similarly, Tabachnick et al. (1991)
found engaging in sexual fantasies about students and
using drugs in your non-teaching life to be
controversial issues. Of the items retained from
Tabachnick et al.'s (1991) survey for use with this
study, teaching psychologists disagreed about how
ethical it was to be sexually attracted to students,
become sexually involved with a student once they have
completed a course, and requiring students to use
aversive procedures with animals.
Ethical Beliefs; Difficult Judgments
Items in Part I that were rated as "I Don't Know"
by one-quarter or more of the respondents were thought

to be difficult judgments for respondents make in terms
of how ethical the specific behavior was in general.
Using this criterion, 11 items emerged as particularly
challenging for GTAs to judge. Table 7 in Appendix A
displays the results. Of the 11 items emerging as
difficult, 3 were also found to be difficult for
teaching psychologists in Tabachnick et al.'s (1991)
study. These items were "teaching in classes so crowded
you couldn't teach effectively," "teaching when to
distressed to be effective," and "encouraging
competition among students." Students in clinically
oriented programs found slightly fewer of these items to
be difficult to judge than did other students, as did
students who had received formal teaching training,
although the difference was not statistically
Part II of the questionnaire consisted of 50 items
relating to how frequently GTAs practiced specific
teaching and teaching related behaviors in their
teaching. Part II proved to have good internal
consistency as verified by Chronbachs alpha reliability
coefficient (alpha = .85). See Appendix E for a summary
of responses to each question in Part II.

Ethical Practices and Training
Chi-Square analyses were use to make comparisons in
Part II, again using an alpha of .01 to compensate for
multiple comparisons. Those GTAs who had reported
receiving some training, either before or after
beginning their teaching duties, were found to be more
likely to ignore strong evidence of cheating than were
those GTAs who reported having no training, %2 (8, N.=
258) = 33.47, p <.0001.
Those GTAs who reported having no training in
ethics were more likely to report having asked a favor
of a student, %2 (4, N = 258) = 16.28, p <.01, and to
have accepted a student's invitation, x2 (4, N = 258) =
16.94, p <.01.
Ethical Practices and Gender
Several issues emerged as being differentially
practiced by males and females. Males engaged in a
number of behaviors more frequently than did females,

including becoming sexually involved with a student, %2
(2, N = 258) = 12.25, p < .01, engaging in sexual
fantasies about a student, %2 (4, N = 258) = 48.14, p
<.001, and teaching personal ethics or values to
students, %2 (4, N = 258) = 16.44, p < .01.
Ethical Practices and Age
Pearson's Product Moment Correlation were used to
determine the relationship between age of GTAs and the
frequency of practice of the teaching and teaching
related behaviors in Part II. Older students.were
significantly more likely than younger GTAs to hug a
student, r(255) = .22, p <.001, encourage competition
between students, r(255) = .17, p < .01., teach personal
ethics to students, r(255) = .20, p <.001, and ignore
unethical of faculty members, r(255) = .20, p <.01.
Ethical Practices and Year in Program
Chi-Square analyses were used to determine the
relationship between a GTA's year in program and the

frequency of practice of the behaviors in Part II. The
variable of year in program consisted of 5 levels: (a)
first year, (b) second year, (c) third year, (d) fourth
year, and (e) fifth year or beyond. Several significant
findings were discovered. Advanced students were more
likely to ignore strong evidence of cheating, %2 (10, N =
257) = 25.38, p < .01, date an undergraduate student, %2
(20, N = 257) = 40.52, p < .01, ignore unethical
behavior of faculty, %2 (20, N = 257) = 49.99, p < .001,
insult a student in his/her presence, %2 (10, N = 257) =
22.28, p < .01, engage in a sexual relationship with a
faculty member, %2 (5, N = 257) = 17.60, p < .01,
inadequately supervise students in laboratories or
classrooms, %2 (10, N = 257) = 24.57, p < .01, and fail
to update lecture material when re-teaching a class, %2
(20, N = 257) = 53.77, p < .0001.
Ethical Practices and Clinical vs. Non-Clinical
Chi-Squared analyses were performed to determine
the relationship between specialty area and frequency of

practice of the behaviors in Part II of the survey. GTAs
who were enrolled in clinical service related programs
were significantly more likely to report teaching
without training in ethics, %2 (4, N = 257) = 13.51, p <
.01, teaching in classroom too crowded to be effective,
X2 (4, N = 257) = 13.98, p < .01, and encourage students
to participate in their research projects, %2 (4, N =
257) = 14.17, p < .01.
Ethical Practices and Professional Society
Chi-Squared analyses revealed that members of
professional societies were significantly more likely to
do as told by a professor, regardless of their ethical
concern, %2 (4, N = 253) = 20.05, p < .001, and more
likely to give easy tests to insure popularity with
students, %2 (2, N = 257) = 9.24, p < .01.
Discrepancies Between Ethical Beliefs and Practices
There proved to be a number of discrepancies
between what GTAs viewed as ethical or unethical and

their practices of those behaviors. Goodman-Kruskal's
Gamma was used as a measure of association between two.
variables on an ordinal level, with a criterion of a =
.01, two-tailed. In general, differences between beliefs
and behaviors that demonstrated incongruence were the
result of GTAs rating behaviors as ethical but not
frequently engaging in those behaviors. However, there
were 13 behaviors GTAs rated as unethical yet had
engaged in, at least on occasion. Over half (56%)
claimed that they have, at least on occasion, been too
distressed to be effective classroom teachers (item
number 8, loading onto Factor 1), yet only one-quarter
feel that is an ethical behavior. Almost 80% (79.1%)
have taught without adequate preparation (item number
16) although only one-quarter (25.7%) felt this is
either probably or definitely ethically acceptable. Over
one half (53.6%) of the respondents reported teaching in
a non-objective or incomplete manner (item number 23,
loading onto Factor 4) while only 11.1% see this is
ethical. Less than 10% (6.9%) felt it is ethical to do
as instructed by a professor regardless of disagreement
or ethical concern (item number 37, loading onto Factor

5), yet over one half (52.3%) have done so. Likewise,
only 2.3% feel it is acceptable to ignore unethical
behavior of faculty (item number 46, loading onto Factor
5) while well over half (52.5%) have done so.
Only 6 GTAs (2.3%) felt it is ethical to assign
grades based on a student's likability (item number 25,
loading onto Factor 4); however, over half (57.7%) of
the respondents had practiced this behavior. A full 58%
rated this behavior as "definitely unethical." One-third
(33.3%) reported having made exceptions to university
policy and allowed certain students to drop their course
for reasons not officially approved (item number 27,
loading onto Factor 4), although nearly half felt this
was an unethical behavior. Almost all (98.5%) reported
that ignoring convincing evidence of cheating (item
number 1, loading onto Factor 4) is unethical, yet 13.5%
had practiced this behavior.
Less than one-third (29.9%) of the respondents felt
it is ethical to use profanity in lectures (item number
26, loading onto Factor 3) while well over half (58.5%)
have done so. Almost 80% (79.5%) had shortened or
canceled their office hours without notice (item number
39, loading onto factor 4), yet less than one-third

(29.5%) believed this to be an ethical behavior. Few
GTAs (3.8%) felt that it is ethically acceptable to
insult or ridicule a student in their absence (item
number 45, loading onto Factor 5) although 44.1% had
done so. Despite the fact that almost one-third (30.2%)
have told a colleague confidential disclosures told to
them by a student (item number 34, loading onto Factor
5), only 4.2% believed this is an ethical behavior.
Although only 2 respondents (.8%) felt that it is
ethically permissible, almost 20% (19.2%) had given easy
tests to insure their popularity with students (item
number 2, loading onto Factor 5). Table 8 in Appendix A
summarizes the results.

This study assessed the ethical beliefs and
practices relating to teaching activities of 261
graduate students in departments of psychology who
independently or co-instruct undergraduate students at
the university level. It also examined the attitudes
towards, and extent of, training and supervision
provided to GTAs by their departments. This discussion
section highlights the major findings of this study in
the context of the overall GTA experience. It looks at
the development of GTA thinking about ethical issues and
the implementation of their beliefs. It offers some
possible interpretations for the findings, as well as
some tentative solutions.
The results of this preliminary study should be
interpreted with care for a number of reasons. First,
some items of the survey were found to be ambiguous. For
example, question number 3: "Dating an undergraduate
student" did not specify if the student was currently or
previously enrolled in one's course, or even if the
student was in the department of psychology at all.
Additionally, question number 19: "Encouraging students

to participate in your research projects" did not
indicate what role the students were encouraged to
Takecollaborator, participant, or assistant. Second,
this was an inductive examination looking at the ethical
beliefs and behaviors of GTA'san area without exemplar
research. Moreover, the results of this study await
replication and further examination. Third, the sample
population, geographic location, and size represent a
small portion of GTAs in graduate psychology programs
across the United States. It is unknown how students
from Western and Eastern universities would compare with
those from Midwestern states. Fourth, the items on the
questionnaire may have been subject to some degree of
social desirability effect. Finally, as was the case
with Tabachnick et al.'s (1991) examination of
psychologists as teachers, this study often asked for
simple ratings of complicated issues.
The limitations notwithstanding, the data do seem
to provide a portrait of the GTA experience and the
ethical environment provided by universities that
utilize graduate students to teach undergraduates. The
roles of training, experience, maturity, gender,
potential struggles over power issues, and attempts to

fit into a competitive setting become clearer in the
light of what GTAs have reported. GTAs seem to be in a
difficult position and are asking for more of a helping
hand from the universities and from their own
What then, given the data, is the GTA experience?
What changes over time with regard to how GTAs see
ethical issues and what behaviors they engage in? What
does not change over time? What can graduate students
starting a teaching assistantship expect in terms of
responsibilities, training, supervision, and their own
Typical graduate students are likely to be assigned
their first teaching assistantships based largely on
availability, financial aid status, or other factors.
They have little, if any, previous experience or
training in teaching issues (Lumsden, 1993), yet they
are given a range of responsibilities including
independently teaching courses, constructing exams, and
holding office hours. Over one quarter of GTAs in their
first year reported teaching a course (26.6%), lab
(31.2%), or recitation (29.7%) without the presence of a
professor. Over one third said they had independently

written examinations (37.5%), and well over half said
that they were expected to grade assignments (82.8%),
assign final grades for courses (53.1%), and hold office
hours (87.5%) in their very first year in graduate
school (see Table 2 in Appendix A).
GTAs seem quickly to find themselves teaching
material they may not have mastered, possibly teaching
courses outside of their area of specialty, and even
teaching when too distressed to be effective. One
quarter of GTAs reported having been required to teach a
course outside of their area of specialty (27.9%), and
over half have taught when they felt too distressed to
be effective in the classroom (55.6%). The majority
reported teaching material that they themselves were not
adequately familiar with (85.4%). None of these factors
appear to change over timeGTAs report these same
stressors and responsibilities throughout their graduate
GTAs often find themselves teaching without regular
supervision from faculty:. Less than half Of the GTAs
reported being required to participate in regular
supervision with faculty regarding teaching issues. This
was the case even for students in their very first year.

If they are offered any training at all, they tend to
rate it as either barely adequate or inadequate: Nearly
one-half of the respondents in this study felt
dissatisfied with the preparation to teach provided to
them by their departments.
On the whole, GTAs report that they believe it to
be unethical to teach without training, or to teach
material they have not mastered. Indeed, the majority of
GTAs stated that these behaviors are either definitely
or probably unethical. However, these factors are
generally systemic issues well beyond their control.
Thus, GTAf s first lesson'in graduate school may be that
it is okay to cut corners ethically. Despite the fact
that they are inexperienced, often untrained, and even
teaching material they may not be familiar withissues
GTAs believe to be unethicaltheir departments appear
to be looking the other way and sending them to sink or
swim. The message they appear to be giving is that it is
permissible to practice on and make their mistakes with
undergraduates, despite the potential harm of ethical
indiscretions. Moreover, the message suggests that it is
acceptable to act in disagreement with your ethical

As GTAs progress, they are given more
responsibilities: independently teaching more classes,
assigning final grades, and writing more exams. With the
increased responsibility comes no increase in training
or supervision, only trial and error experience. With
experience comes more difficult situations and
opportunities, and GTAs begin to garner practical
real-world experience and have more occasions to
exercise their ethical decision making. Although it
would seem logical to assume that experience and
exposure would give GTAs the tools to implement their
ethical beliefs into actions, that is not always the
case. In fact, as GTAs advance through their academic
education, it becomes more likely will participate in
behaviors that were generally rated by GTAs as
unethical. This study found that, although advanced GTAs
were no more likely to rate any of the five factors
differently than were beginning students, they were more
likely to practice a number of the behaviors rated as
unethical. Advanced GTAs reported having, at least on
occasion, ignored evidence of cheating, dated an
undergraduate student, ignored unethical behavior of a
faculty member, insulted a student in his/her presence,

engaged in a sexual relationship with a faculty member,
inadequately supervised students, and failed to update
lecture material.
The fact that advanced GTAs tend to hold the same
ethical beliefs as beginning students yet practice
behaviors rated as unethical more frequently may reflect
a number of different contributing factors. For example,
GTAs may be poorly socialized to their responsibilities
and what is expected of their behaviorand to the
potential impact of their behavior. Furthermore, they
seem to socialized from the beginning that cutting
ethical corners (or, at least, devaluating the
undergraduate experience) is acceptable. Or, GTAs may
find themselves part of an educational environment that
makes it difficult to sustain congruence between belief
and behaviora factor that would be more salient for
advanced students as they come across more and more
dilemmas requiring action. This could take the form of
making it difficult or undesirable to report unethical
behavior of faculty, or discomforting and laborious to
follow through on.evidence of academic dishonesty.
Finally, advanced GTAs may be acting on their perceived
increased judgment gained from experience, or their

feeling of increased power. Nevertheless, these results
are disturbingespecially to undergraduates who
believed that experienced GTAs are the most likely to
provide an ideal overall educational (and ethical)
These findings also argue against the notion that
ethics and ethical behavior can be simply acquired via
informal modeling. If the traditional mentor/apprentice
model were effective, the more direct contact with
professors and faculty modeling ethical behavior, the
more likely graduate students would be to demonstrate
similar behaviors.. However, the fact thatadvanced
students engaging in more behaviors rated as unethical
than beginning students suggests that mere exposure to
others behaving ethically does not substitute for formal
ethical training. As these results imply, it is indeed a
dangerous proposal to assume that ethics can be taught
by way of "osmosis" (Handelsman, 1986).
It could be that advanced GTAs report more
unethical behavior merely because of increased
opportunity to engage in such behaviors. However, they
may also be making errors in judgment. Although it seems
counter intuitive that those with the more experience

are those who are making, seemingly, poorer judgments,
evidence suggests this is the case in many situations;
that experience does not always pay off in increased
judgment. For example, a 1989 study by Garb generally
failed to support the value of experience in the
validity of clinical judgment. Garb (1989) suggested
that factors such as poor feedback and failed cognitive
processes inhibit learning from experience. Indeed, over
half of the GTAs in this study reported receiving no
feedback in the form of faculty supervision. This,
combined with a false sense of security or power, may
account for poor judgments.
Garb (1989) did find training- to be somewhat
effective in improving the judgments of clinicians.
This, too, is something that GTAs seem to be lacking.
GTAs were asked to report two separate types of
training: both ethical training and teaching readiness
training. Less than one-third (31.4%)of the GTAs
reported having any teaching training before beginning
their teaching responsibilities. Fewer than 6% reported
receiving any ethics training before beginning teaching.
The majority of GTAs seem to recognize the importance of
training, and though teaching training should be

required of all students. As was the case in Garb's
(1989) research, this study also demonstrated some
benefits of training. Those with more teaching training
were more likely to rate dual relationship issues as
less ethically acceptable than did those with no
training. Furthermore, those with training in ethics
were less likely to engage in potentially risky dual
relationship activities such as asking a student for
favors and accepting invitations to students' parties.
Ethics training did not, however, affect how GTAs rated
teaching related behaviors. Despite the benefit of
increasing the awareness of dual relationship issues,
teaching training did have the aversive effect of making
GTAs more likely to ignore evidence of cheating. Perhaps
this is true because teaching training makes GTAs
acutely aware of the process of confronting academic
dishonestya painful and unpleasant-process for all
Training also seemed to have some effect on GTA's
ability to think critically about ethical issues and to
make judgments about hypothetical situations. GTAs in
general responded that they did not know whether or not
many of the items were ethical or unethical.

Psychologists in Tabachnick et al.'s (1991) study found
only 11% of the total items to be difficult to judge.
Finding nearly one quarter of the total items difficult
to judge suggests that GTAs have yet to form strong
opinions that may generalize to novel situations.
However, those GTAs who had received formal teaching
training found fewer items difficult to judge than did
those who had no training, although the difference was
not significant.
The process of ethical decision making, however,
is not intuitive; rather, it is a learned process
involving a number of steps (Canter, Bennett, Jones, &
Nagy, 1994). The experience and training people
accumulate plays an important role in their ability to
understand the potential issues involved, analyze the
situation, and make a firm decision based not simply on
the underlying ethics code but on an integration of the
code, one's personality, and the specific situation at
hand(Keith-Spiegel & Koocher, 1995/1985).. GTAs, who lack
both familiarity with the APA code (only 5^8% having
taken an ethics course before beginning their
assistantships) and lack training in formal ethical
decision making, seem unprepared to identify, analyze,

and deal with the unique situations that arise in
Although training seems to have an effect on GTA's
ethical beliefs, albeit a modest one, other factors
appear to have a greater impact. One of these factors
was age, with older GTAs being more likely to rate
sexual behaviors as unethical. This finding may simply
reflect the effects of life experiencethe recognition
of the inherent dangers of sexual involvement with co-
workers, employers, students, etc. Additionally, it may
reflect a degree of conservatism with regard to sexual
issues that may be related to age (Miller & Nakamura,
1997). Conversely, however, older GTAs may become more
comfortable with boundaries (Gutheil & Gabbard, 1993).
For example, older GTAs were more likely to hug a
student, perhaps feeling they know how to firmly
establish the line between a. hug and something ethically
questionable. This feeling of satisfaction or comfort
with their ethical decision making abilities may lead to
sharing their personal ethics with others. This study
found that older GTAs were significantly more likely to
teach their own ethics in the classroom than were
younger GTAs.

Confidence or overconfidence in their abilities may
lead GTAs to take more ethical risks. For example, older
GTAs are more likely to encourage students to compete
amongst themselves. Perhaps this is because older GTAs
feel they recognize the salience of competition later in
life (especially in graduate school). More
pessimistically, however, this finding may reflect
another adverse effect of experience: the potential
misuse of power as GTAs progress in their programs. This
study found that age was significantly correlated with
year in program, therefore these behaviors may reflect
issues of corruption of power or judgments made without
adequate feedback that tended to be associated with year
in program.
Another factor that seems to affect how GTAs judge
ethical behaviors is the specialty area they choose to
pursue. Those enrolled in a clinically related program
may start learning that "clinical judgment" is, at
times, vitaland that they must begin to exercise their
ability to apply judgments to ambiguous situations.
These skills will undoubtedly serve them well in
clinical practice, but may lead to more risky behavior.
Those GTAs enrolled in clinically oriented programs

rated systemic related issues as less unethical than did
non-clinically oriented students. Additionally, clinical
students found relatively fewer items to be difficult to
judgeperhaps reflecting the exercise of their
"clinical judgment." However, while training them to
rely on personal decision making may help them have less
difficulty judging some ethical situations, it may also
lead them to take more risks with their behavior.
Indeed, GTAs in clinical programs reported, teaching
without training, teaching in classrooms too crowded to
be effective, and encouraging their students to
participate in their research. Students in traditional
experimental .programs do not tend to emphasize the value
their own clinical judgment as highly; rather, they
learn to reaffirm their inclinations empirically, and to
be cautious. They learn to take fewer risks, and as a
result their behavior appears to be more conservative.
Clinically oriented students were significantly less
likely to join a professional organization. This may be
due to the higher value clinical students place on their
independence and freedom when it comes to decision
making. However, the vast majority of all GTAs did
report being members of at least one professional

society. Among the reasons GTAs may join societies are
the various benefits, contacts, resources, and possibly
ethical guidance. However, those who report being
members of a society do not rate the ethics of teaching
related behaviors differently than non-members.
Professional societies show that a student has an
investment in the field, and may give GTAs a glimpse
into their future as a practicing professional. The
reasons GTAs join a professional societyessentially to
advance their careermay lead to a "go along to get
along" attitude in some situations with professors and
students. For example, members are more .likely to do as
instructed by their professors regardless of their
ethical concern, and to give easy tests to insure their
popularity among students.
Yet another factor that may influence GTAs ethical
beliefs is their gender. In fact, this appears to be
among the more powerful in this study. Male GTAs are
more likely to view sexual and dual relationship issues
in general hs more ethical. Males are more likely to act
on these engaging in sexual relationships
with students and having sexual fantasies about their
students. Furthermore, they are more likely to teach

their ethical perspectives to their students. Evidence
suggests that these behaviors continue into their
professional careers and tend to cause trouble later.
Tabachnick et al. (1991) found that male teachers also
tended to rate more sexual behaviors as ethical and
practice more sexually related behaviors. This trend
also seems to hold in the practice of psychology as a
whole. For example, from July of 1988 to January of 1997
the Colorado State Grievance Board found that men were
involved in the majority of sanctioned cases in which
sexual impropriety was alleged (Handelsman, 1997). The
same study found that although men constituted less than
half of the total sample, they accounted for well over
half of the sanctions leveled for ethical misconduct.
Despite the differences in how some GTAs rated the
ethics behaviors, this study found a fair amount of
unity among respondents. GTAs demonstrated a large
variance in their responses on only 10% of the total
items, where teaching psychologists did so on nearly
16%. This result may reflect the development of GTAs'
thinking about ethical issues. The fact that GTAs did
not sharply vary on many items may suggest a lack of
strongly formulated ethical ideals that would lead one

to take a position on an issue, instead of rating an
item as "unethical" by default or social desirability.
Where GTAs did seem to have some unity among how
they perceived ethical issues, they were also found to
have a number of inconsistencies between items they
rated as unethical and their practice of those
behaviors. GTAs rated over one quarter of the total
items (26%) as either "definitely unethical" or
"probably unethical," yet had practiced those behaviors
in their teaching, at least on occasion. Among these
behaviors was ignoring evidence of cheating, allowing
students to drop a course for unofficial reasons,
telling disclosures told by students, giving easy tests
to insure popularity, using profanity in lectures,
allowing likability to influence grading, ignoring
unethical behavior of faculty, teaching in an incomplete
or non-objective manner, teaching without adequate
preparation, teaching when too distressed to be
effective, shortening office hours without notice, doing
as instructed by faculty regardless of ethical concern,
and insulting a student in their absence. Psychologist
in Tabachnick et al.'s (1991) study had only one
significant discrepancy between what they believed to be

unethical and their practice of that behavior allowing
a student's likability to influence grading.
The findings that GTAs did not act in accordance
with their beliefs were anticipated by Bernard and
Jara's (1986) findings that graduate students, while
often understanding the ethical issues facing them, do
less than they know they should when it comes to
implementing their understanding. GTAs seem to find
that, even if they have had training, it does not
prepare them to implement their beliefs in practical,
real-world settings. Perhaps they find that the more
dilemmas they face, the harder it is to do the right
thing every time. Or, maybe they are taking to heart the
first ethical lesson they learned in graduate school: it
is okay to cut corners ethically.
Although the results of this preliminary study are
limited in several ways, the data indicate GTAs are
having some difficulty in their roles as teachers at the
university level. They lack training, which seems to
have some limited beneficial effects, and they seem to
feel in over their heads at times. They recognize the
need for more training as well as the uniqueness of
their ethical positions ethically. And they seem to be

seeking guidance. Furthermore, they lack strong ethical
modeling from their departments, and seem to be confused
with regards to acting in accordance with their ethical
More and earlier training may be a partbut only a
partof the solution. Indeed, training does seem to be
one factor that influences ethical beliefs, behaviors,
student confidence, and ability (e.g., Prieto &
Altmaier, 1994), and is undoubtedly needed. However, a
number of other 'changes may also be necessary to rescue
GTAs who feel abandoned in the classrooms. One step may
be to allow a year of practical observational experience
in conjunction with formal teaching readiness and ethics
training. This would allow first year students to be
"Assistant Graduate Teaching Assistants," who would
observe, participate, and learn the practicalities of
teaching without putting undergraduates, or themselves,
in uncomfortable situations. Another possibility may be
to incorporate realistic educational tools and
situations into training. For example, Costanzo and
Handelsman (1998) argued for the importance of using
practical methods to help students not only learn, but
also to apply general ethical principles into their

future activities as teachers. By utilizing pragmatic
teaching methods (e.g., case studies or vignettes),
students are forced to confront, analyze, and elucidate
their thinking about their own ethical beliefs that
direct interactions with students.
Another method that may help GTAs reconcile their
beliefs and behaviors is to increase their chances of
learning from experience. As Garb (1989) suggested, an
important way to do this is to increase unbiased
feedback. Ongoing supervision from faculty may be one
significant factor in increasing this type of important
interaction. Another way may be peer supervision,. GTAs
could benefit from providing and receiving feedback from
their peers, perhaps in the form of monthly or bi-
monthly group supervision meetings focusing on teaching
Perhaps the most potent factor may be providing
GTA.5 with the appropriate ethical model from their
departments. Over half of GTAs surveyed believed that it
is unethical to teaching without training or experience,
yet they are essentially forced to do just that.
Likewise, over half believe it is unethical to teach
material they have not mastered, yet they are required

to do this as well. GTAs are asking for training, both
in ethics and in teaching readiness, yet they rarely get
it. The departments have a large responsibility to help
GTAs get the training they want, and to no longer
require them to act against their ethical beliefs by
having them teach before they are ready.

Table 1
Demographic Profile Of Respondents
Characteristic Q. *o n
Age (x= 28)
21-30 69% 178
31-40 21% 55
41 and over 10% 25
Male 37% 96
Female 63% 165
Program/Degree Type
Ph.D. 87.4% 228
Psy.D. 1.1% 3
Ed.D. 2.7% 7
Masters 7.3% 19
Other 1.5% 4
Specialty Area
Clinical 28.7% 75
Counseling 19.2% 50
Industrial / Organization 4.2% 11
Educational 7.7% 20
Cognitive 8.8% 23
Experimental 6.5% 17
Social 11.5% 30
Developmental 10.7% 28
Other 2.7% 7

Table 1
Demographic Profile Of Respondents
Characteristic % n
Ethnic Background
African American 2.3% 6
Asian/Pacific Islander 3.1% 8
Hispanic 4.3% 11
Native American 1.6% 4
White 86.3% 221
Other 2.3% 6
First 24.5% 64
Second 28.0% ' 73
Third 19.9% 52
Fourth 12.6% 33
Fifth and beyond 14.6% 38
n = 261

GTA Teaching Responsibilities
Duty/Responsibility % n
Independently teaching introductory
course 41.8 109
(26.6) (17)
Independently teaching lab course 46.7 122
(31.2) (20)
Independently teaching recitation/discussion or other course 60.1 157
(29.7) (19)
Independently writing/constructing examinations 60.6 158
(37.5) (24)
Independently grading assignments or tests 89.3 233
(82.8) (53)
Independently assigning final course grade 70.8 185
(53.1) (34)
Holding office hours. 91.6 239
(87.5) (56)
Numbers in parentheses represent GTAs in their first
year, n = 64.

GTA Training and Supervision
Training or Supervision Activity % n
Required to participate in at least one day of teaching readiness before assuming GTA role 31.4 82
Participating in teaching readiness training after assuming GTA role 9.9 26
Required to take a course in ethics before assuming GTA role 5.8 15
Required to have taken and passed, as an undergraduate, course for which acting as GTA 20.7 54
Required to participate in regular supervision with professor regarding teaching issues 47.2 123
Required to teach a course outside of specialty area 25.0 73
Teaching material not yet mastered 88.9 232

GTA Attitude Towards Training
Training Attitude Question % n
Is your training adequate?
Inadequate 20.3 53
Barely adequate 26.1 68
Don't know 6.1 16
Almost adequate 27.6 72
Adequate 19.5 51
Should teaching training be required?
Yes 53.6 140
In most cases 35.2 92
Don't know 6.1 16
In rare cases 3.4 9
No 1.5 4
Should GTA's take an ethics course?
Yes 36.0 94
In most cases 33.3 87
Don't know 14.9 39
In rare cases 8.8 23
No 6.9 18
Should GTA's have their own ethics
code? 29.9 78
Yes 19.2 50
In most cases 27.6 72
Don't know 9.2 24
In rare cases 14.2 37

Items Loading onto Each Factor
Factor / Items
Factor 1: Systemic Issues
(x= 2.6, SD = .64, a = .79)
(Q 20) Teaching in classes so crowded
you couldn't teach effectively.
(Q 21) Teaching in laboratories with
insufficient equipment / resources for
all students.
(Q 15) Teaching material you
haven't really mastered.
(Q 50) Teaching without training in
(Q 22) Using a grading procedure that
does not adequately measure what
students have learned.
(Q 49) Teaching without experience or
(Q 8) Teaching when too distressed to
be effective.
(Q 32) Grading on a strict curve
regardless of class performance
Factor 2: Dual Relationship Issues
(x= 2.18, SD = .63, a = .73)

Items Loading onto Each Factor
(Q 10) Accepting a student's expensive
(Q 5) Asking for small favors (e.g. a
ride home) from a student.
(Q 11) Lending money to a student.
(Q 40) Taking advantage of a student's
offer such as wholesale prices at a
parents' store.
(Q 13) Selling goods (e.g. textbooks or
your car) to a student.
(Q 7) Accepting a student's inexpensive
gift (worth less than $5.00).
Factor 3: Sexual Issues
(X = 2.11, SD = .64, a = .72)
(Q 14) Being sexually attracted to a
(Q 3) Dating an undergraduate student.
(Q 4) Dating another graduate student.
(Q 29) Engaging in a sexual
relationship with a professor or other
faculty member in your department.
(Q 18)- Engaging in sexual fantasies
about students.
(Q 26) Using profanity in lectures.
(Q 47) Becoming sexually involved with
a student only after he / she has
completed your course.

Items Loading onto Each Factor
(Q 9) Becoming sexually involved with a
Factor 4: Fidelity, Justice, and Competence
(X= 1.80, SD = .40, a = .70)
(Q 17) Teaching under the influence of
(Q 1) Ignoring strong evidence of
(Q 27) Allowing students to drop
courses for reasons not officially
(Q 24) Teaching under the influence of
cocaine or other illegal drugs.
(Q 33) Using films, etc., to fill class
time (and reduce your teaching work)
without regard for their educational
(Q 25) Allowing a student's
"likability" to influence your grading.
(Q 42) Using.cocaine or other illegal
drugs in your private (non-teaching)
(Q 39) Shortening or canceling office
hours without notice.
(Q 23) Teaching in a non-objective or
incomplete manner.

Items Loading onto Each Factor
Factor 5: Veracity, Confidentiality, and
professional Issues
(x= 1.65, SD = .43, a = .70)
(Q 34) Telling colleagues confidential
disclosures told to you by a student.
(Q 2) Giving easy courses or tests to
ensure your popularity with
(Q 44) Ignoring unethical behavior of
other graduate students.
(Q 46) Ignoring unethical behavior of
professors or faculty.
(Q 43) Insulting, ridiculing, etc., a
student in the student's presence.
(Q 45) Insulting, ridiculing, etc., a
student in the student's absence.
(Q 37) Doing as instructed by a
professor, regardless of
your disagreement or ethical concern.

Controversial Issues (SD > 1.25)
Item SD
(Q 3) Dating an undergraduate student. 1.40
* (Q 18) Engaging in sexual fantasies about students. 1.32
(Q 19) Encouraging students to participate in your research projects. 1.26
(Q 38) Privately tutoring students in the department for a fee. 1.30
* (Q 42) Using cocaine of other illegal drugs in your private (non-teaching) life. 1.40 '
* Theses items were also found to be controversial items
for teaching psychologists in Tabachnick et al.'s (1991)

Difficult Items to Judge ("I Don't Know" > 25%)
Item % Responding "Don't Know"
2. Hugging a student. 30.7%
13. Selling goods (e.g. textbooks or your car) to a student. 27.6%
*** 14. Being sexually attracted to a student. 25.7%
* 20. Teaching in classes so crowded you couldn't teach effectively. 31.4%
21. Teaching in laboratories with insufficient equipment / resources for all students. 31.0%
26. Using profanity in lectures. 26.1%
27. Allowing students to drop courses for reasons not officially approved. 33.3%
* 28. Encouraging competition between, students. 28.4%
35. Teaching personal ethics or values to students. 25.3%
** t 48. Teaching a course outside of your specialty area. 26.1%
** t 50. Teaching without training in ethics. 26.4%
* Theses items were also found to be difficult to judge by
teaching psychologists in Tabachnick et al.'s (1991) study.
** These items, were not difficult items for student who had
formal training.
+ These items were not difficult items for student in
clinical programs.