7 Tips for Succeeding as a New Teaching Assistant

As a new TA, you may be wondering how to excel in your new role at Notre Dame. Who better to offer advice than Carrie Rodak (Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences) and Laura Taylor (Psychology and Peace Studies), two TAs with extensive experience who are also serving as Graduate Associates at the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning. Below are their seven tips for a successful start to the semester.

1. Meet with the faculty organizing the course to discuss what is and is not your responsibility as a TA – these expectations will vary significantly between colleges, departments, and faculty.

2. Establish expectations, particularly around grading: Meet with the professor, and any other TAs, early on to establish plans for grading, share rubrics, and/or discuss what happens if students contest grades.

3. Make a game plan and set aside time for your TA duties – this is especially useful if you are paired with other TAs. If you know you’ll be grading homework that’s due every Thursday, set a time every week to complete that task (for example, Friday 1-3pm). If you’re running a discussion section and you need to prepare ahead of time, outline that time in your schedule. Setting these blocks of time in your schedule will promote a routine to help you successfully fulfill your duties as a TA, student, and researcher.

4. Attend the first class—even if you aren’t required. This is a rookie mistake frequently made by TAs who are only responsible for grading and office hours and end up sad because no one comes to their office hours. Students are much more likely to use your office hours and ask for help when needed if they know who you are! Introduce yourself and show them you aren’t some scary robot grad student. For example, one undergraduate student told Carrie, “I’m so happy that you are a ‘normal person’” – undergraduates can have some silly misconceptions of graduate students so address that by introducing yourself on the first day. This will make you much more approachable while demonstrating that you care about their education.

5. Lead a lecture: Ask for a copy of the syllabus in advance, review the topics, and schedule a meeting with the professor to discuss the possibility of leading a lecture or facilitating an activity for the class.

6. Seek student feedback: Even if you get formal Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) reports for the course, prepare a short questionnaire (see Kaneb Early-Semester Feedback Workshop) and ask students to provide feedback that you can incorporate into your teaching portfolio.

7. Attend a departmental orientation session or the university-wide Preparing to TA at Notre Dame orientation session offered by the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning.

Stay tuned for more from Carrie and Laura as they contribute additional blog posts and lead workshops for TAs throughout the fall semester!

Comments are closed.