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Five things a TA should do in their first lab, seminar, tutorial or class

Classics seminar

1. Whatever approach you’re going to take in your classroom, model it.

If you plan to use discussions, case studies or experimental work, model some component of it on your first day. You want students to understand that these approaches are important to their success in the course while also letting them know that they’ll be expected to participate in this particular way.

2. Make a commitment to learn student names. State it in the first class. Hold yourself accountable.

Learning student names is a key (and simple) component to engaging students; research suggests the more positive a relationship a student has with an instructor, the higher the student’s final grade (Micari & Pazos, 2012).

3. Bring extras.

This can include: extra course syllabi; details of your office hours & contact information; extra chalk / white board markers; pencils; scrap paper; and lab instructions. Students are bound to forget any and all of these. Plus, looking prepared is a good way to set a tone of your own professionalism.

4. Write the course name, number and tutorial / lab section on the board.

Allows students to check right away if they’re in the correct room; saves the “walk of shame” when they realize they’re not.

5. Start creating a safe space for learning.

This means different things in different classrooms: in a chemistry lab, it might mean highlighting proper procedures; in a humanities seminar, it might mean talking about the kind of environments that encourage appropriate conversation.

References

Micari, M., & Pazos, P. (2012). Connecting to the Professor: Impact of the Student-Faculty Relationship in a Highly Challenging Course. College Teaching, 60(2), 41-47. doi: 10.1080/87567555.2011.627576

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