Your Department’s Role
In March of 2000, the Faculty Senate TA Oversight Committee issued Guidelines for Departmental/Program TA Training. The guidelines ask departments and programs to have in place an orientation, supervision, feedback, and teaching development program for TAs and to designate an Academic Council faculty member to oversee the TA training program.
VPTL works with faculty and departments to design, implement, assist with, and evaluate programs that prepare new TAs for their teaching roles and support all TAs as they carry out their teaching responsibilities. VPTL offers the following services and resources to assist departments with their TA training efforts:
- Hiring: when you hire TAs and RAs, you and they need to follow Stanford procedures and policies. Get an overview of them at our page New to Teaching at Stanford?
- TA training grants to help you develop your training program
- Annual TA Orientation each September
- Microteaching sessions for your TAs to practice their teaching and get feedback. Our trained consultants lead a two-hour session in which 3-5 TAs give 4-minute talks, have themselves video-recorded, and give and receive feedback.
- Feedback on teaching through class observations and video recording
- Mid-quarter feedback, through Small Group Feedback Sessions (SGFSs) and online feedback surveys
- Workshops on teaching, including regular offerings each quarter as well as by request
- A training program for department-based teaching mentors through the Mentors in Teaching (MinT) Program
The literature on TA training recommends the following principles of program design:
- The training should focus on the specific kind of teaching expected of TAs in the department, while also preparing students more broadly for their future careers.
- Experienced TAs should play an active role in designing and running the program.
- The program should solicit regular feedback from TAs, especially in its early stages.
- TAs enter training programs with different levels of skill and experience. The program should acknowledge these differences and offer something to students at every level.
- The department should support its program with a healthy climate of respect for teaching.
In 2008, the Teaching Assistant Oversight Committee (TAOC) conducted a study of the departmental TA training programs in place at Stanford and concluded that they were most effective when they included some or all of the following structures:
- Orientation/training seminars at the beginning of the year or quarter for new TAs
- A pedagogy course or opportunities for ongoing discussion with peers and faculty during the first year of teaching
- Opportunities for TAs to be mentored by faculty or peers
- Opportunities for practice or simulated teaching
- A midterm or formative TA evaluation, as well as an end-of-term or summative TA evaluation process
- A customized departmental TA handbook, online or in print
- An archive system for TA training materials and courses
- Professional development opportunities
- Customized presentations by VPTL staff
What’s Working in TA Training
The following sections present examples effective TA training practices in action in various departments and programs on campus. We hope these examples will inspire ideas for TA training in your department or program. VPTL offers TA training grants to support departments or individual faculty that wish to develop a new teaching assistant training program or to enhance an existing program:
TA Handbook and Guide Examples
- Computer Science
- East Asian Languages and Cultures TA Handbook
- A Practical Guide for Teaching Assistants in English Courses at Stanford
Pedagogy Course Examples
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- BIO 296: TA Training in Biology, by Jamie Imam
- CEE 200: Teaching in Civil and Environmental Engineering, by Stephen Monismith
- CLASSICS 302: Workshop on Teaching in Classics, coming soon
- COMM 301: Communication Research, Curriculum Development and Pedagogy, by Jeremy Bailenson
- DLCL 301: The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages, by Elizabeth Bernardt
- EARTH 218: Communicating Science, by Jenny Saltzman
- EDUC 213: Introduction to Teaching, by Sarah Wischnia
- EDUC 297: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (VPTL 297), by Mariatte Denman and Tom Ehrlich
- EFSLANG 692: Speaking and Teaching in English, by Seth A. Streichler
- ENGLISH 396L: Pedagogy Seminar I, by Alex Woloch
- ENGR 290: Graduate Environment of Support, by Noe Lozano and Tom Kenny
- HISTORY 305: Workshop in Teaching History, by Nancy Kollmann
- HISTORY 306K: World History Pedagogy Workshop, by Martin Lewis and Karen Wigen
- LINGUIST 394: TA Training Workshop, by Beth Levin and Bonnie Krejci
- MUSIC 280: TA Training Course, by Nate Sloan
- PHYSICS 294: Teaching of Physics Practicum, by Chaya Nanavati
- PHYSICS 295, Learning and Teaching of Science (EDUC 280, ENGR 295), by Carl Wieman
- RELIGST 391: Teaching Religious Studies, by Steven Weitzman
- SOC 300: Workshop: The Art and Joy of Teaching, by Lauren Benditt and Emily Carian