Developing Key Areas of Focus

TA talks with his groupmates. Photo by Rod Searcey for Stanford CTL.

Key Areas Overview

In research, it is obvious that we cannot simply read background papers without starting our own project or collect data without moving on to analysis. Similarly, in teaching, we must work to build a well-rounded set of skills that will fully develop our teaching practices.

Below are descriptions of four key Areas of Focus for your teaching development.  While you are at Stanford, you should engage in activities that will develop each of these four Areas of Focus.


You are likely starting with a solid foundation in discipline specific knowledge in the course(s) that you are being asked to teach and probably excelled as a student in that subject. However, as you transition to the teacher role, you must build knowledge in both general and discipline-specific teaching pedagogy: teaching practices and skills that are shown to be effective at helping students learn.


Since teaching is itself an ‘active’ skill, you should find opportunities to actively engage in teaching techniques and activities to help build your confidence in the classroom. If you are proactive in looking, you will find many opportunities to put your growing knowledge of teaching into practice and build a portfolio of experience.


Just as discussion is important in the research community, it's important in teaching. You should engage with fellow TA’s and instructors to discuss teaching strategies, challenges and other topics. There are many opportunities, ranging from informal conversation to conference presentations, that will help you to become a professional member of the teaching community and to grow further.


As you hone your teaching skills, it is critical to gain feedback on your work and reflect on what is going well and what can be improved. Setting regular teaching goals and soliciting input from your students and fellow instructors will help not only to solidify best practices in the classroom but also to document your experience. As you begin to apply for future positions, you will find that this documentation is critical to developing a strong teaching portfolio and application, making your teaching experience count all the more.