Orientation for new teaching assistants at UF – tips for success

UF Orientation for New Teaching Assistants

Here’s the view from the back of Carlton Auditorium during a panel presentation about how to deal with challenging student situations.

by Julie Dodd

Julie Dodd speaking at UF Orientation for New Teaching Assistants

I enjoy helping new teaching assistants be prepared for a good start of their teaching at UF. Photo by Michael Hanna

There’s lots to consider when you’re a new teaching assistant.

That was the take-away for the more than 350 teaching assistants who attended the day-long orientation for new teaching assistants at the University of Florida.

That was a take-away for me, too, as a presenter — as I planned what to share with the new TAs in my talk and also as I listened to the questions the TAs asked during my session and the other orientation sessions I attended.

I talked about developing a checklist of what needs to be accomplished before school starts next week, from meeting with their teaching supervisor to reviewing their online persona/avatar to the classroom where they will be teaching and try out the technology.

I also explained what I’ve coined as the COPE Strategies that can help teachers develop a more student-oriented approach to their teaching.

Julie Dodd

An umbrella and sunglasses are items (in addition to batteries for microphones, water bottle and white board markers) I recommended that TAs carry in their backpacks and briefcases. At UF, you can walk to class needing sunglasses for the bright sun and walk out of class in a heavy afternoon thunderstorm. Photo by Michael Hanna

One of the topics I was asked to talk about was developing a syllabus. I asked the TAs how many of them would be developing the syllabus for the courses they are teaching this semester. Fewer than a dozen raised their hands.

But being aware of what UF (and most colleges) require for the syllabus is helpful for understanding the syllabus that they will be provided and teaching with. Also, for those who will go on to develop their own courses and go into a career in teaching, developing a good syllabus is a key part of effective teaching.

I also offered advice on having a good start to the semester that included selling the value of your course to your students and having lots of patience.

You can download a PDF of my presentations slides:
Julie Dodd’s slides for 2017 UF Orientation for New Teaching Assistants

My handout includes a list of readings that I suggested, including Ken Bain’s “What the Best College Teachers Do.” dodd-ta-orientation-handout-2017

Thanks to Dr. Winifred Cooke, director of the UF Teaching Center, and to Dr. Paul Duncan,  senior associate dean of the UF Graduate School, for inviting me to be a speaker at the TA orientation.

I plan to blog about several of the questions I was asked today during my presentation. So you may want to “follow” my blog to get alerts when I’ve published a new post. If you have questions you’d like me to answer, you can post them as a comment to the blog or email me — jdodd@jou.ufl.edu

Advice for new teaching assistants

by Julie Dodd

jou3109 teaching team

Rich Shumate (on far right) was my lecture assistant for Multimedia Writing. The photo is of the lab instructors for the course.

When Rich Shumate and I met for lunch to celebrate him joining the faculty at Western Kentucky University, one of our topics of conversation was teaching.

As my lecture assistant during his doctoral program, Rich and I had literally hundreds of conversations about teaching, as we planned classes, discussed individual student situations, developed assignments and exams for the 200+ students in Multimedia Writing, and worked with the lab instructors for the course.

Knowing that I was going to be speaking at the University of Florida’s Orientation for Teaching Assistants, I asked Rich what advice he would give new teaching assistants. Here’s the combination of Rich’s advice along with my comments.

Shumate: Always be prepared for class. Don’t just go in and wing it. Your teaching should be planned.

Dodd: Sometimes those who are new to teaching think about professors they had who seemed to spontaneous in their teaching and think that they can be spontaneous, too. But most of the discussions that seemed to be spur of the moment were created by the professor’s questions or objectives for that day’s class. Some really great teaching and learning can happen that isn’t planned in advance, but most good teaching – that leads to students accomplishing the goals of the course – is based on planning and preparation.

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