Publication Date

Summer 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Tabitha Hart

Subject Areas



The aim of this study is to explore the experiences of Graduate Teaching Associates (GTAs) and how they communicate about the challenges they face. Initially, I examined how GTAs describe difficult experiences they have during and outside of the classes that they teach or help facilitate. Then, I investigated how GTAs describe the way they recover readily from these challenging situations and continue to learn from them through the process of sensemaking. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 13 GTAs from six different departments at San Jose State University, a thematic analysis was conducted to connect the information shared by all of the participants. Using Weick’s sensemaking theory as a framework, I analyzed the themes present within the interview responses to further illuminate the communication about GTA experiences within this specific university. The research identifies ways in which GTAs talk about their challenges: using open communication to talk with others, engaging in sensemaking, and reflectively thinking about their actions. Further, it highlights examples of actions GTAs take, such as leaning on their community, talking to their students and professors, and taking care of their mental health. This research provides updated data in communication studies on the experiences of GTAs while simultaneously illustrating the sensemaking practices that they use to help them overcome challenges. After discussing the implications of this research for practitioners, the study offers suggestions for how the data could help bridge gaps in subfields of communication.