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Fall TA Training

This document contains information about fall semester training sessions for teaching assistants in the College of Letters & Science.

Fall 2017 Annual College of Letters & Science Teaching Assistant Training

Thursday, August 31st, 2017 - 9:00 to 4:30
3650 Mosse Humanities Building

At this full-day training event, selected Teaching Fellows from across the disciplines will cover a host of topics that TAs will find useful as they begin their fall teaching appointments. Various campus and college units will also be on hand to discuss strategies and resources to help TAs navigate the first day of class, work within a teaching team, interact with a diverse group of students, understand campus policies as they relate to their TA appointments, and integrate technology into the classroom.

The training is geared towards new TAs in the College of Letters & Science, but experienced TAs are welcome to attend, as are TAs from other UW-Madison schools and colleges.  Pre-registration is not required.

For more information on the Fall TA Training, please contact Brian Bubenzer,, 265-0603, or Kim Moreland,, 890-3850.

Small Group Workshops offered by the L&S Teaching Fellows

The L&S Teaching Fellows are winners of the annual Teaching Fellow Award. These fifteen graduate students specialize in a range of fields represented in the College of Letters & Science.  Nomination as Teaching Fellows acknowledges their outstanding success as students and Teaching Assistants at UW-Madison. Each year, the Teaching Fellows develop and lead a series of workshops for new and experienced TAs who attend the Fall TA Training. Those who attend the training will have the opportunity to participate in two small group workshops.

See descriptions of the Fall 2016 workshops below.

Incorporation of Authentic Materials in Foreign Language Classrooms

Mary Allison, German

Intended for TAs of foreign languages

Exposing your students to authentic materials can certainly be challenging within the confines of the typical foreign language classroom - a fixed, relatively restrictive American classroom filled with desks and little else, where an authentic atmosphere is often difficult to promote. However, when incorporated successfully, both you and your students will enjoy the benefits of enriched materials. You will not only find that it makes for a much more enjoyable classroom experience by sparking students’ interest through exposure to non-textbook materials, but also that it fosters better cultural awareness by making students more conscious of factors that are often overlooked, such as dialectal variation in native speakers. In this workshop, we will explore some resources readily accessible online, as well as how you might successfully incorporate these materials in classroom activities.

Guide to Writing a Successful Lesson Plan for Foreign Language Classes

Sara Farsiu, Second Language Acquisition Program

Intended for TAs of foreign languages

Have you ever taught a language course at the university? Have you thought about what to teach your students? If the answer is no, don’t worry about it! The purpose of this workshop is to develop lesson plans with pre-, main, and post activities. We will focus on communicative language teaching (CLT) approach and emphasize interaction and communication as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. This will be an interactive, participatory, and fun workshop. In the first half of the session, we will discuss how to design communicative activities that help learners to move from knowing the forms to using them in practice. In the second half of the session, you will be assigned into different groups and will be given the opportunity to work on a sample text and design a lesson plan together. You will then share it with other groups. If we have enough time, you can revise your plans based on the feedback you receive.

Flexibility in the Classroom: Learning to Go with the Flow as a TA

Vicki Fama Daniel, History of Science

Intended for all TAs

Whether you are an experienced educator or a new teaching assistant, the classroom can be an intimidating and occasionally frustrating space. Anxieties about finding time to prepare and lead a discussion can push us into the trap of creating a one-size-fits-all lesson plan for the week or relying on the same classroom structures and activities. While rigidly outlining what students will discuss and how they will discuss it may save you time and give you a sense of control over the classroom, it is critical to learn how to be flexible. Flexibility is crucial for guiding students through the material while also developing their own intellectual engagement with the material and one another. This workshop will address this idea of flexibility in several ways, from how to design a semester plan with wiggle room, how to mediate between different student needs and expectations, how to assess and respond to student needs as the semester progresses, and how to make improvisational moves in the classroom as needed. We will discuss the different kinds of assignments and activities you can develop to keep yourself and your students fresh throughout the semester and to help students become active members of the classroom.

Discussing Identity: Race, Gender, Class, Sexuality, Religion, and Political Affiliation in the Classroom

Sarah Dimick, English

Intended for TAs of all disciplines

During a discussion of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, a white student raises her hand and declares that the only reason racism still exists in America is that we keep talking about slavery. "If everyone would just get over it," she continues, "if we could just put it behind us, things would be much better." How do you respond?

Talking about race, gender, sexuality, religion, or politics in the classroom can feel like walking on thin ice, and yet these conversations are both crucial and inevitable. Examining real classroom scenarios contributed by a wide range of UW TAs, we will discuss strategies for crafting productive and thoughtful conversations around these topics. By the end of this session, you will have a better sense of how these conversations may arise and unfold in your classroom. You will also generate a list of pedagogical principles to employ when leading these discussions, allowing you to welcome these topics into your classroom with confidence.

Meeting Individual Student Needs: Maximizing Accessibility for All Students from Day One

Annika Konrad, English

Intended for all TAs, regardless of discipline or experience

You will likely find yourself in a classroom full of students who are different from each other--they come from different backgrounds, they have different interests and experiences, and they will have different learning styles and needs. Some of their differences might even conflict with one another. For example, one student might excel at speaking in small groups while another might experience anxiety in small groups. One student might work best in a quiet environment while another might require noise in order to concentrate. One student might prefer information that is presented visually while another student who is color blind might not be able to access visual information in the same way. How do you teach while accounting for all these different, and sometimes conflicting, needs? How can you teach in a way that makes learning accessible for everyone?

In this workshop you will learn how to make your teaching practices flexible and adaptable so that you can maximize accessibility for all students. You will learn how to combine formal accommodations with accessible teaching practices; what it means to have a flexible mindset as an instructor; and how you can use a ‘syllabus accessibility statement’ to communicate your flexibility and adaptability to your students from day one. We will look at a variety of scenarios in which students’ individual needs do not initially align with the traditional modes of learning or instruction, and together we will think through how we would approach similar situations with flexible and adaptable mindsets. You will leave the workshop with a rough draft of your own ‘syllabus accessibility statement.’

Resurrecting Dead Sections: Strategies for Increasing Student Engagement

Clinton Packman, Philosophy

Intended for all TAs, but will be most useful to humanities students

Superficial engagement is a common source of dissatisfaction among students and instructors. And it’s difficult to avoid in discussion section. How can remedy it? Or, even better, how can we prevent it?

In this workshop we’ll make progress on these questions by thinking about some others, including:

What, exactly, are discussion sections for?

How can you increase the participation of quiet students?

In what ways is participation affected by gender dynamics?

How can you craft questions that will lead to a productive discussion?

Is cold calling a good idea?

How can you lower student inhibitions?

What should you do with a student that talks too much?

Active Student Engagement, Participation, and Learning

Joseph Kuo, Zoology

Intended for TAs in any discipline

In a traditional classroom where students absorb materials from lectures like sponges and cram heavily a few evenings before exams, students cannot regurgitate the material in the long run and think critically about the content. Furthermore, many courses throughout campus are taken as prerequisites and especially by non-majors, with students not being passionate on the subject in the first place. Compared to a passive learning environment with the instructor delivering all the materials, an active classroom has students exploring the content with one another, relating concepts to their studies of interest and everyday life, and developing skills to think critically with questions. This allows students to be responsible for their learning, gain more confidence in their abilities, remember more details, and further appreciate the course.

In this workshop, we will discuss (1) ways to foster a welcoming learning environment with the instructor as a facilitator, (2) challenges that could occur through the active hands-on learning process and some strategies to maintain student participation, (3) methods to have students stay motivated and engaged on hour-long discussions or three-hour labs, and (4) responsibilities of the instructor and students.

Becoming a Teacher: Improving Your Practice Through Reflection, Feedback, and Experimentation

Benjamin Linzmeier, Geoscience

Designed for all TAs

Are you worried you’re not a ‘born teacher’ and unsure of what to do to improve? I was not an effective TA my first semester, but with training and practice I improved. In this workshop we will discuss some of the tools and habits you can use to improve your teaching practice as this semester progresses. We will focus on using reflection, requesting and using feedback, and setting up small experiments to help you and your students succeed in the classroom. We will also touch on some of the best practices from literature and address common perceptions that hinder creating a welcoming, productive classroom. At the end of this workshop you will be able to start to self-assess your teaching practice and improve your effectiveness in the classroom.

How to Not Stand in the Front and Lecture: Tips for Facilitating Learning in Lab and Discussion

Rachel Toczydlowski, Botany

Intended for all TAs, but examples will be most applicable to life science labs and discussions

Students get the most out of a lab or discussion when they are the ones doing the majority of the work. This workshop is designed to give you ideas on how to engage students with the material in an active way. This means, learning how to teach material while you do less talking and the students do more. We will first talk briefly about how to create a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable participating. Then, we will move to tips for effectively using group work, and learn how to use the Socratic method. For those of you not familiar, the Socratic method is essentially a dialogue between students and instructors kept active by the instructor asking probing or guiding questions. Instructors teach by giving students questions as opposed to answers. This workshop will be run as a guided conversation/discussion and I will model Socratic teaching with a brief example if there is time and interest. I hope participants will come away from this workshop with new ideas for how to be a facilitator or guide in the classroom as opposed to a lecturer.

How to Engage Your Students in Class

Chandan Biswas, Mathematics

Intended for all TAs, but will be most useful to quantitative students

When leading a quantitative class, it is almost impossible to do the job without active participation from and discussion with the students. This workshop will discuss the challenges of teaching a quantitative classes and discussion sections and how to develop techniques to encourage participation and engage students in these types of courses. We will come up with your own personalized plan to make the classes most useful for the students.

Teaching a Required Class to Non-Majors

Richard Sayanagi, Physics

Intended for all TAs

We encounter a wide variety of students in the classroom as TAs, and there are often students who are not majoring in the discipline that you are teaching. These non-major students could be intimidated by the unfamiliar material outside of their majors, bored and angry with the required class that they have to take, or simply lacking the necessary skills to do well in the class even if they have an interest in the subject. We will discuss some strategies and tactics to better engage these students and make them feel comfortable in the classroom. I hope you will walk away from this workshop with knowledge of how to create a positive learning environment for your students, get the students excited about coming to your class, and maybe even have some of your non-major students to switch their majors to your discipline! This workshop is for intended for all TAs, especially first-time TAs who expect to have non-major students in their classroom.

TAs as Educators and Managers: Planning, Action and Managing Expectations

Kanit Kuevibulvanich, Economics

Intended for all TAs

As a TA, you are undertaking an integral role in providing high-quality education, in which students have invested themselves physically and financially. In the classroom, you, as an educator, contribute greatly to the betterment of not just individual students, but to society as a whole. However, you also need to satisfy the requirement of being a graduate student. Therefore, being prepared in your teaching assignment will help you efficiently complete the task and maximizing overall satisfaction of students, supervisors, and yourself. In this workshop, we will discuss managing students’ expectations through lesson planning, efficient classroom management, communication, transparency, and evaluation. Discussion will also revolve around our past experiences as an undergraduate student with TAs to reflect and synthesize what an ideal TA could be in the classroom.

Contributing to the Classroom as an International TA

Bo Hee Min, Sociology

Intended for international TAs

For an international TA, the classroom environment and culture at the UW as a large U.S. public university might be significantly different from those you are familiar with in your country. It is not only the learning the language but also the culture in order to become a good TA. What kind of difficulties will you likely face as an international TA? How can you overcome those difficulties? The first half of this session will cover the students’ expectations and classroom culture at UW in general and the common obstacles that international TAs face when teaching a discussion or lab session. Then in groups we will discuss good approaches to the scenarios based on those obstacles in order to help you develop your own way of effectively helping the students learn in the settings particular to your students and what you teach.

Your First Day in the Classroom: Tips and Tricks

Rebecca Summer, Geography

Intended for all TAs, though will be the most useful to new TAs.

Nervous for your first day? Feeling like an imposter? Not sure how to relate to your students? Not to worry. In this workshop we’ll cover tips for putting you and your students at ease the first day of class and setting the tone for a successful semester. We’ll go over what to bring to help you feel prepared, some productive activities for those first few minutes, and, most importantly, we’ll discuss how to set clear expectations about what students will do in your class and what role you will play in helping to facilitate their learning. You will leave the workshop with a personalized syllabus that can guide discussion for the first day and serve as a reference for students of the expectations that you have set for your semester together. This workshop is intended for first-time TAs leading discussion sections, though experienced TAs and those leading labs or lectures are welcome.

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Keywords:teaching assistant workshop small group fellow   Doc ID:45612
Owner:Brian B.Group:College of Letters & Science
Created:2014-12-12 13:49 CDTUpdated:2017-03-02 12:46 CDT
Sites:College of Letters & Science
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