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.

Providing outside-of-class learning options when university holidays (or weather emergencies) cancel class

When your course is scheduled is one of the challenging aspects of planning a course.

Will the course be one hour three times a week, three hours once a week, or some other option? Every timeframe provides its own opportunities and challenges.

And then there’s the issue of when the class doesn’t meet due to university closings. Most often those closing are part of the university’s calendar – Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and, for us at UF, Homecoming. Sometimes the closing is due to a weather event, from hurricanes to snow storms, depending on where you are teaching.

For our class, we’re missing two three-hour class meetings this semester because of closings for Labor Day and Veterans Day.

I’d like for each of you to take on an outside-of-class opportunity to provide a learning experience for you as a teacher – and potentially to be an addition to your CV.

Attend Advising 101
This workshop and discussion is being held by the College’s Student Services on Tuesday, Oct. 9, beginning at 11:45 a.m., in 3032 Weimer. The workshop will include discussion of topics including pre-professional requirements, Gordon Rule, degree audits and outside concentrations. The workshop is open to faculty, graduate students and adjuncts. You don’t need to pre-register. Pizza and beverages will be served.

Reporting Across Platforms is one of the many free courses your can take online at NewsU. This is a course that I helped create with Judy Robinson, Victoria Lim, and a NewsU instructional designer.

Take an online course on Poynter’s NewsU
Set up an account, and you may take more than 70 free online courses. Most courses take from 20 minutes to three hours to complete. I’m going to encourage you to take one of the two courses I helped create, as I’d like to talk in class about what was involved in creating online materials.

Reporting Across Platforms —

Video Storytelling for the Web —

Attend one of the training workshops offered by UF’s Teaching Center.
The workshops typically are two hours. Courses scheduled for this fall include Sakai II, Troubled and Disruptive Students, Copyright in the Classroom, Testing and Grading, and Creating a Teaching Portfolio. Go to The Teaching Center website, the click on the link to workshop descriptions and to register online.

Complete UF’s Sexual Harassment Prevention online training course.
Learn how to go online to take the course —

We’ll discuss these options in class, and you may have other learning opportunities to add to the list.