College students would rather have a professor teaching classes than a teaching assistant (TA). That's according to a new study conducted by three students at American International College in Springfield. Ethan Prentiss of Brimfield, Louis Faivre of West Springfield, and Arianna Dallas-White of Springfield, presented their research recently at the New England Psychological Association (NEPA) conference at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester.

The research indicated that while students reported a lower anxiety level with teaching assistants present in the class, they would rather have the professor teaching the class.

Eighty-seven students were surveyed and asked to report anxiety levels with regards to the presence of TAs and preferences of professors in relation to TAs. Students reported lower levels of anxiety when there was a TA present within the course than when they were not present. However, students indicated that they preferred professors over TAs. Furthermore, analyses indicated that the complexity of the course coincided with the degree to which students rated TAs.

Ethan Prentiss, Arianna Dallas-White and Louis Faivre

Results of this study are contrary to previous studies in regards to TA preferences in relation to professors. Students did report lower levels of anxiety after learning about the presence of a TA within their course. The research indicated that TAs have a positive influence on students’ anxiety.

The study indicates participants may have reported higher professor preferences due to the small population and close-knit nature of the college in which data was collected. Furthermore, the teaching assistants were all undergraduate students that may have been “fellow students” within other psychology or general education elective courses. Therefore, participants may have rated the TAs more as other students rather than an authority figure.

The students conducted all phases of a research project titled "Undergraduate Student Preferences of Teaching Assistants in Relation to Professors." They read about previous research on this topic, devised a survey, administered the survey, analyzed the data and submitted a proposal to NEPA, which was accepted.