TA Training Program Design

TA Training Program Overview

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CTL works with faculty and departments to design, implement, assist with, and evaluate programs that prepare new TAs for their teaching roles and support all TAs as they carry out their teaching responsibilities. Past activities have included workshops on discussion-leading, lecturing, testing and grading, and teaching portfolios. We have also assisted with departmental teaching orientations and teaching handbooks, the development of courses on teaching, and small grants.

Who to Contact

If you are a department chair or a faculty member who supervises TAs and want to discuss training programs for them, please contact the appropriate Associate Director for your disciplinary area:

Design Principles

The literature on TA training recommends the following principles of program design:

  • The training should focus on the specific kind of teaching expected of TAs in the department, while also preparing students more broadly for their future careers.
  • Experienced TAs should play an active role in designing and running the program.
  • The program should solicit regular feedback from TAs, especially in its early stages.
  • TAs enter training programs with different levels of skill and experience. The program should acknowledge these differences and offer something to students at every level.
  • The department should support its program with a healthy climate of respect for teaching.

Best Practices

In 2008, the Teaching Assistant Oversight Committee (TAOC) conducted a study of the departmental TA training programs in place at Stanford and concluded that they were most effective when they included some of the following structures:

  • Orientation/training seminars at the beginning of the year or quarter for new TAs
  • A pedagogy course or opportunities for ongoing discussion with peers and faculty during the first year of teaching
  • Opportunities for TAs to be mentored by faculty or peers
  • Opportunities for practice or simulated teaching
  • A midterm or formative TA evaluation, as well as an end-of-term or summative TA evaluation process
  • A customized departmental TA handbook, online or in print
  • An archive system for TA training materials and courses
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Customized presentations by CTL staff

Examples

If you are thinking of creating a handbook for your own department, you may wish to see what others have done:

The Teaching Assistant Oversight Committee (TAOC)

In 1997 Stanford’s Faculty Senate created a Teaching Assistant Oversight Committee (TAOC) to ensure that departments and faculty were fulfilling their responsibility “to provide TAs with all the necessary training for their teaching duties.” In March of 2000, the TAOC issued a succinct set of guidelines on effective TA training. Leaving ample room for departmental or program initiatives, the guidelines emphasized only three requirements:

  • Each department should designate an Academic Council faculty member to take responsibility for TA training.
  • The department should establish a program that assures TAs of training for, and supervision while, teaching.
  • Training should consist of two main elements:
    1. General principles of effective teaching and university policies relevant to teaching. Although this form of training is generally provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning, departments may choose to do it themselves.
    2. Discipline-specific pedagogy, provided by the departments. Departments may—and often do—request CTL’s assistance in designing and/or delivering this kind of training as well.