Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



Committee Chair

Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw

Committee Member

Andrew Tawfik

Committee Member

Craig Shepherd

Committee Member

Karen Macbeth


This design case provides a transparent tale of building an international graduate teaching assistant (IGTA) orientation as a virtual Community of Practice (VCoP) during the COVID-19 era. The design case is situated in an English as a Second Language Composition (ESLC) Program at a large midwestern university for new GTAs, both international and domestic. Studies show that IGTAs who do not fit the prototype of GTAs in predominately white institutions (PWI), face marginalization, damaging their sense of belonging and identity as legitimate educators. Their salient social identities as both multicultural and multilingual become oppressed as they attempt to develop their professional educator identity. Intersectionality illuminates the oppression of social identities and provides a way forward that empowers rather than marginalizes. Embracing social identities as assets and not deficits can engender IGTAs’ sense of belonging. As a complement, the constructs of Community of Practice (CoP) theory provide practical guidance for welcoming newcomers. CoP sets forth three modes of belonging (i.e., imagination, alignment, engagement) and three enabling structures (i.e., support, sponsorship, and recognition) that form an architecture for building a community. These two theories comprise an identity theoretical framework to undergird the design. Further, the design is contextually grounded with instructional goals identified from an extensive front-end analysis. A two-month front-end analysis, including semi-structured interviews, a member-checking focus group, and weekly peer-debriefing with the design team is followed by six months of design and development. This design case addresses a gap in the literature related to IGTA educator identity development in U.S. universities. While many empirical studies demonstrate that CoPs support identity development, the literature lacks VCoP design precedents that elucidate how theoretical constructs shape community members’ interaction and engagement. The design case provides detailed descriptions of how the learning environment and discrete design elements were influenced by the theoretical framework and experienced by participants. In this way, it attempts to fill the gap with a rich, descriptive narrative of the design challenges and decisions. Design feedback from Learning Experience Design (LXD) interviews and pilot surveys provided insight into the design’s successes and failures. The design case concludes by highlighting several precedents created by the process to support future VCoP designs aimed at educator identity development.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open access