Tag Archives: TA Development


I have spent the last three days at the annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Toronto. Wow, I have hit exhaustion. So many ideas. So many engaging conversations. Inspired. Overwhelmed. I can’t do it all. But I can do. The challenge over the next few days for me will be to hold on to the most important nuggets. A list of some key ideas to help:

  • Embrace the Smackdown in Teaching Smackdowns. Try to find out what real issues are facing faculty in our department, and invite conversation. Consider a panel including undergrad and grad students, faculty, and administrators. Ground the discussion in the literature. — from Pedagogical Provocations workshop (e.g., Connie @ U of A)
  • A cat doesn’t come until the can opener sounds. Creative insight doesn’t occur with out work. — a metaphor Amanda Burk heard
  • What in my courses is taught/assessed, taught/not assessed (and so on to fill out the quadrants)? Decision points. — from someone Amanda Burk heard
  • Students learn what they do. What are students in my classes doing?
  • To download a Youtube video, add pwn before youtube in the url.
  • To teach “knowledge-ability” (1) enage in real problems, (2) with students, (3) while harnessing the relevant tools. — Michael Wesch @ Kansas; implications for my 208 assignment; see ideas document
  • To examine  test questions: What is the test question asking? What learning is the question evaluating? How can it be re-written so these align? Consider cognitive load theory. — Joanne Nakonechny
  • “On an exam, I ask you to be competent, not clever. On an assignment you have 2 weeks to think about, I ask you to be clever.” — another participant’s comment re: evaluation
  • Break down a tough exam question. Think out loud as I respond. What assumptions do I make? Can I structure the question so that students demonstrate understanding of the theory, then ability to use it, then ability to apply it, then ability to turn it on its head. — insight from Joanne’s session.
  • Email my former student Gillian about her work on the NSSE.
  • Think about how I can help demystify academia for my students.
  • At the first year level, you are joining the professional academic community. What impact does that have for my first weeks of class? Tie professional communication to job preparation. Email and general etiquette. Give examples of high quality work, compare to poor quality, and differentiate them. — from Professionalism session (Waterloo connection)
  • Celebrate failure: “How fascinating!”  — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
  • (How) can I contribute to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? What will that look like in my career? How can I balance this in the context of my other responsibilities, especially in terms of time? — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
  • What excites me about SoTL is the potential for collaborating with students and colleagues, making a meaningful contribution, expanding the impact of my work, staying accountable for my teaching and learning actions. — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
  • Grad student teaching portfolio resources: http://www.mcgill.ca/tls/teachingportfolio/
  • Interdisciplinarity: There are more commonalities that one would think. The creative process as described by artists is not unlike the process of developing research and writing it up. We don’t talk about it in the same way, but the processes of attempts, failure, revision, inspiration, feedback/peer review — and the accompanying emotional roller coaster — have many parallels. There are also common issues in teaching people to do really difficult things: e.g., learn technical proficiency and content, critically evaluate their own and others’ work.

This list became much longer than I had anticipated it would, given my fatigue. Yet one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that whenever I’m close to exhaustion, I can easily be energized by thinking about teaching and learning.

“summer” happenings

What does an instructor do when there is no one around to instruct? What does a garden do when there is no sun?

I’m learning the answers to both of those questions. The latter question is visually apparent to me right now: It does not grow many flowers, but it does grow lots of foliage. Lots and lots of foliage. I have dill that’s two feet tall! Leaves of all the flowering plants are overlapping. But few flowers.

The former question is also becoming quite apparent. I’m building. Developing. Planning. Reading. Meeting. (So many meetings!) Thinking. Writing. I’m starting to become concerned with all I’m doing! Some examples, if you’re interested: I’m planning TA and TF Development programming for the fall/winter. I met with public affairs to discuss a potential media piece on learning strategies, based off my 208 course. I’m writing a review of a textbook in preparation for an upcoming Canadian edition (more on that later!) — it’s the one I use for 217, and there’s a possibility I might be involved in the “Canadianizing” of it. I’m helping Sunaina to plan for our Psychology Tri-Mentoring program. I’m working with colleagues to start a casual network of instructors within the Faculty of Arts. I’m attending an orientation to become a peer reviewer of teaching (so exciting!). Oh, and I’m planning syllabi and assignments and lesson ideas and gathering new content for my courses! Wow. Write it all out like this is a little overwhelming. But that’s one of the things I really like about my job. I get to challenge myself to do more, think more, and be more. It can be an addiction though, and I need to watch out I don’t plan too much for the fall!

Success with TA Training Fund!

Once again, my application to UBC to fund Psychology TA Development has been successful – yay! I apply annually for funding, which comes from the Office of the Provost and VP Academic: http://www.vpacademic.ubc.ca/tatraining/index.htm. Over the past three years, I am grateful to have received $11 625.75 toward the training and development of our Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows in Psychology. Thanks to everyone who participates in these events for demonstrating a committment to teaching. Below is an excerpt from the application outlining the upcoming programming for 2010/2011. I look forward to your participation!

The Psychology Graduate Student Professional Development Series in Teaching and Teaching Assistance will be launched in September 2010. This new title provides an organizing framework for our two existing programs, subsuming both the Teaching Assistant Development Program aimed at an introduction level, and the Professional Development in Teaching Program aimed for more experienced TAs and TFs (details for both are forthcoming).

Beginning Fall 2009

September is upon us! Events are moving right along… yesterday was TA Development Day, during which PhD student Lara Aknin and I led a full day of events for our new and returning TAs. The focus was on basic skill development, including ways to promote a smooth semester for oneself, students, and the instructor; dealing with critical incidents professionally; developing grading rubrics;using course-related technologies (e.g., WebCT Vista, Turnitin.com, the library website, &the Scantron machine); and becoming familiar with relevant policies. Thanks to everyone who helped out on the organizing team, and for everyone who came and participated.

Tuesday brings the start of the semester… welcome (back)! We’ll be kicking off the year with Imagine UBC, including Psychology-specific events (check out the details here). Classes will begin on Tuesday evening. I’m excited and a bit nervous for the first days of classes, but I have many plans in place to make this semester an enjoyable & educational one for all of us. See you in class!