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

4 teaching strategies for college instructors — context, optimism, preparation and engagement

by Julie Dodd

auditorium class

COPE Strategies can help teachers as they begin new academic year.

The start of the school year provides the opportunity for teachers and students to consider the big picture of teaching and learning before getting caught up in the week-by-week view of readings, quizzes and assignments.

Scott Newstok’s “How to Think Like Shakespeare” offers a call to action for the Class of 2020 (and for all college students) to take advantage of the learning enterprise to realize the value of gaining knowledge, to engage in critical thinking, and to seek collaborative environments.

Newstok’s essay, although directed at college students, provides a model for college teachers of how to take lofty student learning outcomes and design classes and assignments to enable students to reach those outcomes.

In speaking at the orientation for new teaching assistants at the University of Florida, I wanted to help those 350+ new instructors consider some big concepts that could help them develop their teaching outlook.

I talked with them about what I call the COPE Strategies to help develop a teaching approach.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading