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.

Advice for new teaching assistants — My presentation to TAs at the University of Florida

by Julie Dodd

Gator clockThe clock is ticking as we approach the start of the academic year at the University of Florida and at colleges and universities across the country.

Today, I made a presentation about teaching at UF’s orientation for the more than 400 new teaching assistants that will be teaching labs, classes, and discussion groups this year.

My topic was “A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your First Week of Class and Your Syllabus.”

Click to download my presentation slides — ta_orientation_2015_presentation_dodd

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First class meeting: Setting personal goals for course; considering issues in higher ed

by Julie Dodd

The structure of school in most parts of the world provides the energizing opportunity of stopping, rethinking and restarting. In higher education, most colleges and universities are on either the semester or quarter system with students and teachers getting a new start at least two or three times a year.

Each of those new starts follows at least a week break. Some of the value of a break is actually taking a break from school tasks. However, the break also provides a time for reading, reflection and revising of course plans.

Tweet about Kent FuchsAs I begin a new semester of teaching Mass Communication Teaching (MMC6930), I am considering the blend of the ongoing issues of teaching and learning (i.e., motivation, critical thinking) and the issues of this moment in time that affect teaching.

In our first class meeting, the class and I will talk about their goals for themselves as teachers and what their hopes are for the course. Many of those issues are consistent from semester to semester as graduate students strive to be effective teaching assistants and prepare for the teaching component of a university teaching career.

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Planning is key step for effective teaching — advice to new teaching assistants

University of Florida's New Teaching Assistant Orientation

More than 400 University of Florida graduate students attended the New Teaching Assistant Orientation, held in Carleton Auditorium. Photo by Julie Dodd

by Julie Dodd

The more than 400 new teaching assistants at the University of Florida have been busy preparing for the start of school by attending the New Teaching Assistant Orientation. I enjoyed being part of the team of faculty members, administrators and teaching assistants who made presentations for the orientation.

My presentation was “A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your Syllabus and the First Week of Class.” You can download the PDF handout of the slides (5MB) – dodd_2014_UF_TA_orientation_slides

[You can check the UF Teaching Resources tab at the top of the blog for a list of links to helpful teaching resources, including syllabus policies and the UF Undergraduate Catalog.}

I appreciated everyone participating in the short peer-to-peer discussions on topics related to teaching. Thanks to those of you who asked questions, which included:

  • What activities can you use to learn student names?
  • What are tips for international teaching assistants for whom English is not their first language?
  • What advice do you have for how to avoid discipline problems that can be caused by cellphones?

Preparing for the presentation is always helpful for me, as talking about planning for teaching success helps me in my own class planning.

Thanks to Drs. Paul Duncan, Winifred Cooke and Rhonda Moraca for coordinating such a helpful program. For more information on support for teaching assistants (including the “Teaching at the University of Florida” handbook), check the UF Teaching Center.

Develop proposal for undergraduate course you want to develop

New teaching assistants and new faculty members often start learning about the values of and problems of a syllabus when they are handed a syllabus and told, “Here’s what you’ll be teaching.”

Sometimes that’s literal — As a teaching assistant, you are given a syllabus and that’s what you are to follow. Having the syllabus already prepared can save you from making literally dozens of decisions about the course.

Sometimes you are given the syllabus to serve as a foundation for the syllabus that you will be developing for the course.
You want to be able to develop your own syllabus — recognizing how your course fits into the curriculum and bringing your own strengths to the course.

As part of your teaching portfolio, you are developing course materials for an undergraduate communications course — the syllabus, an assessment activity and evaluation criteria, and two lesson plans.

You’ve already been thinking about what course you’d like to develop. What you need to do for class for Sept. 17 is to develop a written proposal for your course. Here’s a Word document that provides a structure for your proposal — mmc6930_course_proposal
Download the form, type in the needed information, and bring the printed proposal to class on Sept. 17.

Once you have the course determined and the proposal written, you can begin thinking about planning your syllabus:

  • Identify syllabi online for similar courses.
  • Answer the questions (above — in image) about how a syllabus can help your students and help you.
  • Check the links I’ve provided on the blog (UF resources) for information that you will include in your syllabus.
  • Read the chapter in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips about developing a syllabus.
  • Read a post I wrote about creating a syllabus.
  • Develop a list of questions you have about creating a syllabus.