Working with Teaching Assistants
Teaching a large class of undergraduates with the assistance of teaching assistants (TAs) requires extra managerial and organizational skills. TAs will continually look to you for guidance for conducting and teaching the course. The following are suggestions that may assist you in this task:
- When possible, choose TAs who have expertise in the subject matter, want to teach, are good communicators, and are team players.
- Think through the structure of the course early and discuss their role with the TAs, e.g., attend lectures, have responsibility for a portion of course grades, grade homework problems. Make your expectations explicit and tell the TAs how they will be evaluated.
- Have a preliminary meeting with the TAs as soon as they are chosen. Have a syllabus ready that the TAs can review to ensure that they are able to follow and understand it.
- Provide and require training sessions for the TAs with an instructional component before the semester begins.
- Select a head TA to act as a coordinator and liaison.
- Meet with TAs regularly to go over content, teaching methods, grading issues, and special problems. Most faculty members require such a meeting weekly.
- Monitor each TA's progress throughout every semester they teach by visiting their classrooms, videotaping their teaching, and/or having them collect mid-semester student feedback about their teaching. Debrief with TAs after each of these teaching development experiences.
- Support and assist your TAs in dealing with special problems they will encounter, e.g., academic integrity, classroom discipline, course management issues, harassment, pressures of being both teacher and student.
- Avoid discussing other faculty members or TAs with your TAs.
- Do not misuse TAs by requiring more of their time or duties outside of their responsibilities than their appointments dictate. Try to be objective and fair to all of your TAs.
- For Illinois faculty: Encourage TAs to enroll in one of CITL's certificate programs to enhance their teaching abilities and assist them in getting a teaching position in the future.
- McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2005). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (12th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Nyquist, J. D., Abbot, R. D., Wulff, D. H., & Sprague, J. (Eds.). (1991). Preparing the professoriate of tomorrow to teach: Selected readings in TA training. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.