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.

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Creating undergraduate course materials to demonstrate best practices

by Julie Dodd

The assignment to create materials for an undergraduate communications course gives you the opportunity to plan a course that you would like to teach (or that you already teach and would like to improve) and to demonstrate best practices for teaching and learning.

You are drawing from your own experience as teaching assistants and from our work this semester, including readings such as “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” “Who Gets to Graduate?” and “Rebooting the Academy.”

You are designing your course as if you were teaching it at UF during Fall Semester 2015. You are keeping the various UF calendar dates in mind and are following UF’s guidelines for syllabi.¬†[For example, Ligia Cervera’s teaching presentation on working with students with learning disabilities was an excellent reminder of how important it is to include in your syllabus information on UF resources.]

An important component of the syllabus is the timeline. You list every class meeting and indicate the topic for each class (not just a chapter number), any assignments or quiz/test for that date, and any assigned readings.

[You’ve submitted a draft of the syllabus and we did a critique in class.]

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McKeachie’s Teaching Tips and mind mapping help us consider issues involved in developing a syllabus

A major focus of class today was discussing how McKeachie’s Teaching Tips can provide advice on and insights into planning an undergraduate course.

First the topic was discussed in small groups of three or four. Then we reconvened as a class, and I used mind mapping on the whiteboard to look at the many issues that relate to curriculum development and, in particular, to planning a syllabus.

After about 30 minutes, we’d covered the board with issues ranging from selecting a textbook to grading to determining what teaching methods would be most effective.

We also discussed  how developing a syllabus and creating lesson plans at the university level are similar to and different from teaching and planning in K-12 and how that can be different in other countries, as we have class members from Argentina, Egypt, Germany and Korea.

In addition to thinking about McKeachie’s tips and syllabus planning, I hope the class members considered how they could use mind mapping in their own teaching.

I took the photos with my iPhone. This larger photo is composed of three photos, using the AutoStitch Panorama app.