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Biology Program TA Professional Development (BioTAP) Certificate

What is BioTAP?

Teaching is an important component of a student’s graduate education.  In the BioTAP program graduate students will be introduced to the practical teaching skills and strategies they need to be effective teaching assistants.  The BioTAP certificate will be awarded to graduate students that have participated in five of the seven professional development sessions held throughout the year (see details below). These program sessions are intended as an introduction to teaching.  Graduate students may pursue further professional development by participating in CTLT offered ISW’s or BIOL 535.  The Botany and Zoology Departments recognize the BioTAP certificate as a valuable professional development activity for graduate students.

Benefits of BioTAP

Many graduate students considering teaching as part of a post-graduation career path will require practical experience and evidence of professional development that can be included in their c.v.s.  Through the BioTAP certificate program graduate students in Botany and Zoology will develop a community of graduate students who are thoughtful, supportive and have a commitment to teaching.

Program Sessions

1. TA Orientation (TAO) 

This orientation introduces the new graduate student TAs to the culture of teaching Biology at UBC, their role as a TA, and the expectations we have of them.  They will consider some of the situations that confront a TA before they face their students and be made aware of resources available on campus.  We expect that at the end of the TA orientation, graduate students will be familiar with UBC policies on academic integrity, have a sense of the professionalism required of TAs and will be familiar with UBC grading policies and the kind of feedback – written and verbal – that is appropriate and expected in our program.  Experienced TAs will facilitate discussions on topics such as time management in graduate student life, marking/evaluating students, inclusivity (diversity in the classroom), classroom management (including time), and TA-student/TA-faculty relations.

2.  Facilitation strategies for effective learning 

The focus of this session is to consider various facilitation strategies for situations the graduate student TAs may have encountered while teaching.  Teaching techniques such as effective use of questioning, facilitating small group discussion, active learning methods and essential classroom management skills will be discussed.

3. Marking: Survival skills 

This session will explore the various ways in which undergraduate students are typically evaluated: written assignments, reports, exams, as well as oral reports and posters. TAs will have the opportunity to practice the use of marking keys and rubrics.  In discussion with senior TAs and instructors the TAs will identify strategies for effective grading and means of providing undergraduate students with constructive feedback.

4. Challenges and rewards of teaching: where do we go from here? 

At this session the TAs will review their teaching experience from the fall term.  The TA mentors will revisit the topics introduced at the TAO (time management in graduate student life, marking/evaluating students, inclusivity (diversity in the classroom), classroom management (including time), TA-student/TA-faculty relations) with the group.

5. Expand your teaching skills: try something new 

TAs will make observations of an experienced instructor prior to the workshop. At this session, TAs will present a five-minute lesson to their peers on a biological concept and receive constructive feedback about their teaching.

6.  Promoting inclusivity in the classroom 

During this session the graduate student TAs will discuss ways to ensure the atmosphere in the classroom is welcoming and respectful for all students.  As a teacher it is important to identify any biases we may harbor and also become sensitive to ways that students perceive our behaviours.  Using clear communication and inclusive teaching strategies can contribute to positive learning environments.

7.  Best practices in teaching 

This session will focus on presentation of documented ‘Best Practices’ and will include evidence in support of ‘Best Practices’.  TAs will share teaching strategies and practices they found effective, and consider new strategies that they can adopt in their next teaching assignment.

The BioTAP certificates will be awarded to those who have participated in five out of seven sessions.