Tips from TAs for being successful new teachers

by Julie Dodd

ta-orientation-2016Three teaching assistants who were winners of UF’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards offered teaching advice at the UF TA Orientation.

William Hedderson – Applied Physiology & Kinesiology
Will discussed two topics that I discussed and so did Carla and Michael — promoting active learning and learning students’ names. Teaching doesn’t mean that you need to be lecturing for the full time. Plan class to get students involved and talking with each other. After spending his first semester of teaching learning very few student names, Will made a real effort to learn names, and that made a big difference in his interaction with his students.

Carla Strickland-Hughes – Psychology
Carla talked about how to organize a lecture or presentation, including providing the students an overview at the start of class to help them know their objectives for the class. Other tips included making presentation slides easy to read and helpful with large point size (at least 24 point), relevant images, and not too many words. She recommended building in student activities about every 15 minutes to keep the students engaged. Having a supplemental textbook provides you, as the instructor, additional examples to use in class.

Michael Polo – Music
Michael told the story of how his teaching assignment was the one music area he had most disliked as a student himself — live singing. But he prepared to take on the challenge of teaching a course he had dreaded and wound up being very successful with his students. The take-away — You won’t always be assigned to classes that you enjoyed as a student, but you can become a very effective instructor … if you make the effort.

 

Positive start to your teaching — my advice at UF TA Orientation 2016

UF TA Orientation 2016

I presented a session to more than 400 graduate students who attended the New Teaching Assistant Orientation at the University of Florida. Photo by Bobbi Carpenter

by Julie Dodd

UF TA Orientation 2016

I encouraged the TAs to make the most of their time this week to prepare for the start on classes next wee. Photo by Keir Hamilton

Welcome to the new teaching assistants at the University of Florida. (And welcome to all of you who are new to teaching this semester.)

I appreciated the UF Graduate School and UF Teaching Center inviting me to be on the program for the UF TA Orientation — speaking on “A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your Syllabus and the First Week of Classes.”

Thanks to the more than 400 teaching assistants in my session for their attention, their involvement, and their questions.

Here are my slides for the presentation — Dr. Julie Dodd’s slides – UF TA Orientation 2016

Here is my handout — Dr. Julie Dodd’s handout – UF TA Orientation 2016

I’ll follow up on some of the questions asked in a future blog post.

I hope the new TAs will take advantage of the optional sessions being offered:

  • “Teaching for Teaching in UF Classrooms” – Aug. 18, 10 a.m. to noon, Turlington L005
  • “International TAs in UF Classrooms” – Aug. 18, 2 to 4 p.m., Turlington L005
  • “e-Learning@UF: Getting Started, Intermediate & Advanced” – Aug. 19, HUB 221

You can follow me on Twitter – @profdodd

UF Orientation helps new teaching assistants have positive start to semester

UF TA Orientation 2015

More than 350 teaching assistants attend the annual orientation for teaching assistants at the University of Florida. I took this photo from the back of Carleton Auditorium before my session in 2015.

by Julie Dodd

New teaching assistants at the University of Florida will attend an Orientation for Graduate Teaching Assistants on Tuesday, Aug. 18, to help them be ready for the start of Fall Semester on Monday, Aug. 22.

I’ll be one of the speakers on the day-long program, which will be held in Carleton Auditorium.

My session is “Your Syllabus and the First Week of Class.” That broad topic lets me talk about many important aspects of a successful start of the semester — from incorporating active learning activities in class to being sure to have an umbrella.

I’ll post the handout and slides from the presentation.

The orientation is hosted by the UF Graduate School and the UF Teaching Center.

Discussion as a teaching tool — pros, cons and teaching tactics

by Minch Minchin
Ph.D and J.D. student, University of Florida

Minch Minchin

Minch Minchin

Class discussions as a pedagogical tool are as old as teaching, itself.

Yet despite discussion’s rich and ancient lineage, some teachers may be wary of promoting discussions in their classrooms. Such fears are not without merit, as there are practical limitations to discussions as well as the potential for things simply to go wrong:

  • Students may not be prepared and have nothing to say (and silence is often perceived as awkward).
  • If students do all the talking, the teacher may not be able to cover the requisite material.
  • Students may ask questions for which the teacher is unprepared or doesn’t know the answer to.
  • The discussion may become controversial, off topic or out of hand.
  • One or two students may dominate the conversation.
  • Students may think the teacher is neglecting his/her responsibilities and making the students do all the work.
  • Students accustomed to passive learning may need to be re-wired to function within a discussion framework.
  • Skillfully guiding discussion rather than merely stating the facts in a lecture is generally a lot more difficult.
  • The room—especially auditorium-style rooms—may not be spatially conducive to discussion.
  • The class may be too big for entire-class discussions.

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4 strategies to prevent academic dishonesty

by Margaret Gaylord
Master’s Student, University of Florida

Margaret Gaylord

Margaret Gaylord

Academic dishonesty has reached epidemic proportions, starting as early as middle school.  Cheating is a complicated problem, not just explained away by a lazy student. The good news is that educators can be a critical part of education and prevention for their students on this subject.

Who Cheats? 

Honors students, weak students, low GPA students, high GPA students, students of color, students who are white, middle class students. In a phrase, all types of students.

We have seen evidence of cheating in places we would not expect: Harvard and the Air Force Academy, to name two. The point is, there is no typical student that can be identified as a chronic cheater. More effectively, instructors can find ways to reduce the incidence of cheating through practical changes in their own classrooms.

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9 principles of Universal Design assist in designing more effective instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos
Master’s student, University of Florida

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

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More research is needed to back up learning styles theories

by Cindy Spence
Master’s student, University of Florida

Cindy Spence

Cindy Spence

Intuitively, learning styles theory makes sense. Many of us have an orientation toward a certain kind of stimulus: visual, aural, kinesthetic. And many of us believe we learn better if a lesson caters to our orientation.

The evidence, however, says our intuition is wrong.

University of Virginia psychology Professor Daniel Willingham, who studies the role of cognitive psychology in kindergarten through university education, says the evidence for learning styles just does not exist. Learning styles, he says, are one of those things people think they have figured out. They believe science has settled the issue, in favor of learning styles, when very little research has been done at all.

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