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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 2016 Annual College of Letters & Science Teaching Assistant Training

Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 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 2015 workshops below.

Getting the Most out of Your Teaching Experience
Stacy Priniski, Psychology
Intended for: TAs in any discipline, particularly those planning to pursue careers in academia
As teaching assistants we provide a valuable service to our students, the instructors we work with, and the university as a whole. However, these are not the only reasons for us to TA. TAships are also important opportunities for us to build teaching and leadership skills that will help us get jobs and become successful educators. That being said, many TAs continue to feel underprepared, undertrained, and unconfident about their ability to teach a course, even after several semesters of teaching. The purpose of this workshop is to help TAs think about their TAships as an integral part of their graduate training and consider ways to leverage TA experiences for personal and professional development. We will discuss strategies to maximize the training value of different types of TA appointments, and how to articulate the value of our TA experiences to future employers. It is easy for us to believe that the limited list of teaching tasks TAs complete means that we’re not “real” teachers, or not ready for “real” teaching, but we should not underestimate ourselves or the availability of valuable teaching opportunities in our TAships.

Improving the Quality of Class Discussion
David O’Brien, Philosophy
Intended for: New TAs, regardless of discipline
A common source of frustration for TAs is a lack of student engagement. Some students may lack interest in your class. Some students may be quiet or reticent in section. Some sections may seem to have interpersonal dynamics that frustrate productive discussion. Some students may be disposed to engage with material in a superficial or offhand way. In this workshop, we’ll discuss strategies for avoiding these problems and improving the quality of in-class discussion. The guiding idea is to get clear about the skills that you want students to develop, and then to use your discussion section to develop these skills. More particularly, we’ll discuss: how to design and execute effective group-work exercises, how to orchestrate in-class discussions, how to engage quieter students, how to reflect critically on the ways in which you interact with students, and how to use course readings in discussion section to promote deeper engagement. During the workshop, we'll consider some sample scenarios to illustrate how to put these ideas into practice, and you'll also have the opportunity to consider and discuss how to do so in the context of your particular discipline. By the end, you should have a store of techniques that will benefit your students and bolster your own confidence.

Building confidence for international TAs
Mei Zhang, Library and Information Studies
Intended for international TA, especially whose native language is not English
Are you nervous that your students won’t understand your English because you have an accent? Are you wondering how the classroom culture in the U.S. is different from your home country? This workshop aims to provide techniques/resources to help you become more confident in your own class. Specifically, I will share my personal experience on dealing with my cultural background in different classroom settings, from the perspectives of an international TA for the discussion session in a Communication-B course, to the lab TA in a more technology-oriented class. Then we will work in groups (by disciplines) to discuss the concerns you have as a first-time international TA, and we will explore some ideas to cope with these problems.

“Relax, You’re Going to Do Great:” How to Make the Most of the First Day of Class
Richard Becker, Geoscience
Nervous about being a TA?  This workshop will provide you with concrete suggestions on how to structure the very first day of class.  We’ll talk about: how to speak with confidence (even when you’re not feeling it), how to learn student names and match them with the appropriate faces, how to engage students with the material and (hopefully) get them excited about the course, how to foster connections between the students, such that a sense of community develops, and how to effectively communicate your expectations to the students.  At the end of this workshop, participants will have specific tools that they can employ in the classroom to manage their nerves, develop rapport with the students, and teach more effectively.  This workshop is targeted toward new TAs, but anyone who wants a better opening day of the semester is welcome.

Team Teaching: Managing Relationships Between Students, TAs and Supervisors
Sophia Farmer, Art History
As teaching assistant, you will have to navigate a number of professional relationships, especially if you are working in a teaching team (i.e. more than one teaching assistant assigned to any course).  This workshop is designed to expose you to some of the issues you may face with fellow teaching assistants or supervisors, and how those relationships in turn may impact your interactions with students.  The most effective teaching teams are cohesive and save everyone involved time and energy.  But how do you create an effective teaching team?  How do you maintain consistency among sections with fellow teaching assistants?  What do you do if you disagree on grading practices?  How do you maintain a professional relationship and also remain friendly with those you work with?  This workshop will provide you with the tools you need to successfully manage relationships with students, fellow teaching assistants and supervisors using a combination of resources including real-life case studies.

Students Who Don’t Want to be There: Motivating students when teaching a required class
Carolyn Abbott, Mathematics
Have you ever been forced to take a course you’re not interested in?  How did you react to that situation?  What motivated you to do well in that course?  When teaching a required course, many students will be in your classroom because they have to be.  However, with a little help from you, they can become active, engaged members of the classroom.  During this workshop, we will offer techniques for motivating and engaging students, as well as combating frustration and confusion.  While discussing how to creating a positive classroom environment, we will consider ways to help students vanquish their anxieties about the subject matter.  We will look at strategies to overcome a student’s lack of enthusiasm and encourage independent thinking. You will have students from a large variety of backgrounds, and, with a little effort and a few key techniques, such a class can be one of the most interesting and rewarding to teach!

First Things First – How to Prepare for Your First Day as a TA
Rachel Boothby, Geography
This workshop will give you the tools you need to confidently set foot in the classroom on your first day as a TA, and to cultivate positive relationships with your students that will continue to grow over the course of the semester. You will learn how to articulate a teaching philosophy that will set expectations for what your students can expect from you over the course of the semester and what, in turn, you will expect from them. We will touch on how to integrate your teaching approach into your course syllabus and semester-long planning, and how tools such as Learn@UW and other campus resources can help. Lastly, we’ll discuss the process of putting together a lesson plan, starting from the first day.

Teaching a Stand-Alone Course
Katie Lanning, English
This workshop explores different techniques to help TAs prepare to teach a stand-alone course. We’ll discuss how to shape a course that builds in skills and lessons across a semester. We’ll especially look at practical strategies for creating a syllabus, course calendar, and class policies. In addition, we’ll brainstorm ways to create your own assignments and set specific agendas and goals for your class. This workshop will also troubleshoot common concerns or questions that arise when preparing to teach your own course, such as how to establish authority in the classroom without a supervising professor or how to design a strong grading system. What do students expect from a TA instructor? How does teaching a stand-alone course differ from other TA appointments? What responsibilities does such an instructor have both inside and outside the classroom? This workshop will address these questions and more and will provide a variety of resources that can help you as you prepare to teach your own course.

Making Discussion Effective: Developing materials, classroom practices for student's needs.
Yun Su, Mathematics
Intended for all TAs
Leading a discussion section for the first time? Want your students to like you? Trying to make your discussion more effective? Want to keep students engaged in class? Understanding students' needs is the most important part. Based on their needs, a set of good classroom practices will make your discussion more effective. The goal of this workshop is to provide you with some guidelines to successfully motivate students, make class discussions more effective, and prompt students to think in multiple perspectives. When you apply these tools to your own classroom this fall, you will be pleased at how enjoyable and effective teaching and learning can be. Handouts and sample worksheets will be provided.

Foreign Language Classrooms: Students’ Diversity Matters
Adeola Agoke, African Languages and Literature
Teaching aspects of the target culture has always been a core component of foreign language classrooms. However, there is also the need to incorporate the diverse cultural perspectives that learners bring to class in creating task –as- work plan. This workshop will explore meaningful strategies for designing lessons that are sensitive to the demography of the language classroom alongside the target culture. The step by step strategies to be discussed will be fleshed out using a number of interesting scenarios, sample task-as-work plan, culture-driven curriculum, and other demos.

Long Lab Sessions that Don’t Sag in the Middle
Jesse Miller, Zoology
Longer laboratory meetings can be challenging for both students and TA's. What strategies can we use to help our students (and ourselves) stay focused and engaged for a lab that lasts up to 3 hours? In this workshop we will identify potentially problematic aspects of long lab sessions and discuss strategies TAs can use to prevent or ameliorate them. This workshop will include a group discussion with the goal of addressing specific concerns of attendees. One major focus will be techniques for developing a warm classroom environment that helps energy levels stay high.

Encouraging Participation in Quantitative Discussions
Andrew Kidd, Economics
Teaching and engaging participation and discussion in quantitative-based courses can be a challenge due to the course material itself. Yet, regardless of what is being taught, bringing students into the conversation can be done so they better understand and internalize concepts and problems from these courses. This workshop will go through the challenges of teaching quantitative classes and discussion sections, develop techniques to encourage participation and engage students in these types of courses, and create a teaching plan personalized to your subject area.

Civil Discourse: Teaching Controversial Subjects & Facilitating Meaningful Conversation
Kristen Fox, Political Science
While some students thrive on confrontation, debate, and lively discourse, others noticeably shrink from any possibility of classroom confrontation. Particularly for those of us who teach contemporary controversies, this presents an ongoing professional duty: how do we push our students to challenge themselves (and one another!) while ensuring that the classroom environment remains safe and collegial, with every student drawn into the discussion?
To this end, some topics that we will address include how to encourage honest and challenging conversations while maintaining a safe learning environment, to what extent it is appropriate and/or necessary to disclose our own beliefs, the pros and cons of wearing the Devil's Advocate hat, and leading by example. Perhaps most importantly, though, we will discuss the critical step of setting the foundation of trust, respect, and credibility that makes civil discourse possible when tackling controversial topics and conversations.

Transparency in Teaching
Jesse Stavis, Slavic Languages and Literature
This session will focus on strategies and techniques designed to foster increased transparency in the classroom.  By clearly communicating goals, expectations, methodologies, and policies, instructors can avoid misunderstandings and allow students to understand how the in-class exercises and assignments that they complete at home are related to the broader goals of the course.  Increased transparency leads to higher levels of student motivation, improved outcomes, and stronger instructor evaluations.
In the first half of the session, participants will discuss:
  • How to establish clear and realistic learning expectations in the syllabus, on the first day of class, and at the beginning of every meeting.
  • How to honestly explain your own experience and depth of knowledge (or lack thereof!) without sacrificing credibility.
  • How to communicate course and evaluation policies in order to avoid misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and complaints.
  • How to decide when it is appropriate and helpful to incorporate your own experience and personal life into the classroom.
In the second half of the session, we will look at some ways in which these principles can be incorporated into classes, labs, and discussion sections by using a daily agenda, a set of printed materials that allows students to understand the learning objectives, activities, and expectations for each class.  Using a daily agenda helps the instructor create a well-balanced, dynamic lesson plan and allows students to clearly grasp the purpose of in-class activities.  It can also help instructors save time in helping students who have missed class to catch up on in-class work and at-home assignments. 

Effective Writing Feedback
Alberto Orellana-Campos, Journalism and Mass Communication
Intended Audience: All TAs, regardless of experience or discipline
Grading papers and providing feedback is one of the most crucial duties of our jobs as TAs. This is arguably one of the most time-consuming, energy-draining activities we have as graduate students, so how to make the best of it for our students and ourselves? This workshop aims to provide you with a useful framework to give your students writing feedback that works! We will discuss writing objectives, ‘comments on the margins,’ final remarks, and ways to encourage students to incorporate your recommendations in revisions and future writing.  I will show you actual examples from writing assignments, so come prepared to discuss and interact with others!

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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:2016-04-28 13:15 CDT
Sites:College of Letters & Science
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