In September 2016 I began to facilitate TA training, providing our department’s teaching assistants with an overview of general departmental guidelines relevant to TAs, Canvas access and use, expectations, diversity training, and teaching tips from faculty members and TA mentors.
After running the training in the 2016–17 academic year, I developed an assessment strategy to evaluate the effectiveness of the current training. In collaboration with Associate Professor Joseph Monteyne from Art History, I sent a survey to senior VISA and Art History TAs. Our survey measured training topics and formats that graduate students felt were most relevant for their training experience, and gauged interest in adding new components to training, such as mentorship opportunities. We received a 50% response rate, and the responders attested to being “Very Interested” in sessions related to preparing to be an independent instructor, such as creating a teaching portfolio (78%), drafting a pedagogical statement (73%), designing lesson plans (75%), and writing course-level learning outcomes (85%). The written feedback that we received included some responses that helped improve the training, including; a lack of knowledge in basic TA expectations for the department (53%), a disciplinary connection, and an interest in ways they could learn from each other, to mentor and be mentored. They requested that their training address the signature pedagogies of the discipline and the perspectives and issues that are prevalent in teaching VISA and Art History. As a result, I made a series of adjustments to improve the 2017–18 sessions, including
- adding a new presentation for new TAs to explain TAship’s many roles
- creating, in consultation with CTLT, an interactive session to address discipline-specific issues in the classroom, such as facilitating a space in which a diverse student population can engage with complex topics—religion, for instance, or cultural appropriation and feminist theory—from different and sometimes opposing perspectives in a productive way
- a productive and generative dynamic of passion and enthusiasm for facilitating education.
At the end of the training, I circulated a written evaluation for the TAs, the results from the 21 completed questionnaires indicated substantial improvement in my revised training program. The revised diversity component was singled out for praise, as notably the experienced TAs indicated that it was more adequate to address the disciplinary perspectives and the challenges they faced in their classrooms than in previous iterations of the training.
Entering the 2018–2019 academic year, I am still striving to improve our TA training. Along with our department’s graduate program coordinator, I have contributed to a TA Training Fund application for the department. If approved, I will be developing these initiatives alongside the faculty graduate advisors:
- creating senior mentorship programs for both Art History and VISA
- adding optional sessions on how to prepare a teaching philosophy statement, learning outcomes, and a teaching portfolio; of which I will create and facilitate
- the possibility of creating an AHVA Teaching Certificate.
AHVA Teaching Assistant Mentorship Program (Starting Fall 2018)
The Teaching Assistant Mentor Program provides high quality mentoring for Art History and Visual Art Teaching Assistants to support and enhance their engagement in and achievement towards teaching practices. The program aims to shape teaching approaches and assist in the general development of teaching and learning experiences. The program also aims to utilize teaching and learning experiences of mentors, in reflecting on experience towards greater comprehension and cognition of valuable learning about their experiential knowledge-base in teaching.
The Role and Responsibilities
The Teaching Assistant Mentor role will focus on facilitating opportunities for teaching assistants to engage with each other in their teaching practices in the form of individual or group sessions. Topics encompass Visual Art and Art History signature disciplinary teaching methods and researched-informed educational strategies and initiatives. Mentors may choose to host sessions of a particular topic based on demand, a Q&A period, or when appropriate -meet for one-on-one advising for particular teaching situations and advice.
As a Peer Mentor you will:
- Communicate sessions and mentorship availability to incoming Teaching Assistants
- Provide peer teaching assistant mentoring, ad-hoc or planned, to peers in the program
- Act as a point of contact to half of the incoming/new Teaching Assistants from Art History or Visual Art, and provide guidance, resources and opportunities about teaching for all to engage in
- Work with the other TA mentors on planning efficiently, and to cover a broad range of specialties
- Participate in the development, implementation and evaluation of the mentorship program
- Attend and participate in 4, 1-hour meetings over the academic year with graduate advisor faculty and staff, to ensure and respond to identified needs and opportunities
Position Terms, Commitment and Compensation
Time commitment is 5 hours per term (10 hours over 8 months) and schedule is dependent on Teaching Assistant requests during the Sept – April academic year and includes communication, planning, facilitating, and availability to mentor, as well as prepare and attend program meetings. The hours are compensated as per appropriate TA salary.
Supervision and Advising
Teaching Assistant Peer Mentors will report directly to Maureen Ryan, Marina Roy and Christine D’Onofrio
This position offers graduate students the arena to develop a number of skills, development and training opportunities for personal and professional growth including:
- Teaching and learning coaching and leadership skills;
- Verbal communication and listening skills of needs expressed by TAs;
- Collaborative teamwork and coordination: working with the mentors, faculty and staff;
- Job-related skills such as enhanced professional communication and group facilitation.
- Intercultural and social awareness.
Mentors are encouraged to suggest areas in which they would like additional training and seek opportunities that broaden and develop various areas of expertise. Further teaching and learning training is possible and beneficial for the mentors, encompassing areas such as Instructional Skills Workshops, Teaching Wellness, etc…