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Effective physics instruction benefits from respecting the physics ideas that introductory students bring into the classroom. We argue that it is similarly beneficial to respect the teaching ideas that novice physics instructors bring to their classrooms. We present a case study of a tutorial teaching assistant TA, Alan. When we first examined Alan’s teaching, we focused our attention on the mismatch between his actions and those advocated by the TA instructors. Further study showed us that Alan cared about helping his students and that his teaching was well integrated with his beliefs about how students learn physics and how teachers can best assist students. Learning about Alan’s beliefs and motivations changed our thinking about what might constitute effective professional development for Alan and other TAs. We advocate a new perspective on TA professional development: one in which TAs are seen as partners in the endeavor of educating students and one that seeks to find and build upon productive elements in their beliefs.

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Originally published in Physical Review Physics Education Research .

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