Graduate Student Opportunities and Resources

Publication Venues

Currents In Teaching and Learning is now accepting submissions for its Fall 2012 issue (the deadline is April 15th). For more information about this online publication and how to submit, please click here.

Workshops

CETL workshops offer a great opportunity to develop the professional skills. In our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate instruction and the professional preparation of graduate students, the Graduate School and CETL have developed a program of TA training and graduate student development sessions. The August and January sessions are required for grad students who will be teaching assistants for the first time in that academic year; all graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend all events. Materials from the prior TA training workshops are available to all graduate students.

Visit our events page for a complete listing of upcoming events.

Other Resources

We offer confidential individual teaching consultations to anyone who teaches at Clark, including full time and part time faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Consultations are done by Mary-Ellen Boyle.

The Colleges of Worcester Consortium Certificate in College Teaching Program is a certificate program designed for graduate students, adjunct faculty, and full-time faculty who are either pursuing or engaging in a career in academia. This program offers graduate students and faculty the opportunity to learn best practices in college teaching with the theoretical background that supports it. Courses may be taken "a la carte" or in pursuit of the 1.5-unit Certificate in College Teaching. Clark faculty and graduate students may qualify for tuition reimbursement for Certificate courses. Follow the links for information about how to register and apply for tuition reimbursement. The Certificate in College Teaching Program was recently featured in an article in the Teaching Professor Newsletter.

Teaching Assistants' Resource Documents

TA Feedback and Evaluation Process

What Makes a Good TA?–"Best Practices" for Graduate Teaching Assistants

Teaching Assistants (TA's) play a significant role in the education process. As a TA, you have the opportunity to increase your professional development skills while simultaneously discovering whether teaching is a field that you want to enter long-term. In addition to providing support for faculty teaching large-size courses, TA's contribute to the learning experiences of undergraduates. The following ideas offer some "best practice" tips that can make your service as a TA both rich and useful.

In January, the Teaching and Professional Development Series for Graduate students focused on the question what makes a good TA. At this event, experienced TA's from a variety of disciplines answered the following questions:

  1. What was the biggest challenge you encountered as a TA, and how did you manage it?
  2. What is the one piece of advice that you would like to give to new TAs?

Out of this discussion, three characteristics emerged as important qualities of an excellent TA.

Take initiative

Individuals who take initiative in their role as a teaching assistant improve the likelihood of being an effective TA.

The role of a TA can be challenging. As a graduate student, you have two roles–that of being a student, but also of an instructor to a group of undergraduates. In addition to juggling your responsibilities as a graduate student you need to establish a working relationship with the professor while participating in the mentoring of undergraduates during their formal years in college. The multiple roles that you occupy require good time management and communication skills. Take the initiative throughout the semester to find out which tasks are most crucial to assisting the professor effectively. Whenever possible, bring your ideas to the professor in the form of concrete questions, sample responses/exam keys, and or case examples of challenges that you are facing in your role as a TA.

Maintain strong communication with your supervising professor(s)

The key to a good TA experience is an open line of communication between the TA and professor.

At the start of the semester, request a meeting with the professor for whom you work in order to clarify the following issues:

  1. What will your TAs' responsibilities be? If there are multiple TA's how will the work be divided or shared?
  2. To what extent and in what contexts will you have interaction with students?
  3. How often will you meet with the professor to discuss the course?
  4. What are the main goals of the course? And, will some goals be more important than others in your position as a TA?
  5. What aspects of TA teaching are most important for maintaining consistency and fulfilling course objectives?
  6. How will your work as a TA be evaluated? How often will you receive feedback and will that feedback come from both the professor and students?

For time management purposes, attempt to gauge how much the weekly time demands will fluctuate over the course of the semester. This information will allow you to manage your multiple responsibilities most effectively.

Respect the demands of the job

Remember at all times that in your role as a TA you serve as a professional.

In addition to taking initiative, establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with the professor and the students with whom you work, be prepared to respect the demands of the job. Each TA experience will be unique. Your ability to flexibly adapt to the variety of needs that professors present may be your greatest asset. To make this experience a beneficial one for you, the professor, and the students develop relationships that reflect your respect for the professional work environment.

The following resources are available in the CETL library.

Freeland, Rea. 1998. Collected Wisdom: Strategies & Resources for TA's. Pittsburg: Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence Carnegie Mellon University. 

Prieto, Loreto & Meyers, Steven (ed.). 2001. The Teaching Assistant Training Handbook: How to Prepare TA's for Their Responsibilities. Stillwater: New Forums Press Inc.

Do you have ideas for other useful tips for TAs? Please send them to cetl@clarku.edu, and you may see your suggestion added to the list! Please use the subject header "TA tip".