2019 TA Institute Themes

The TA Institute runs Jan. 15–18 at UBC’s Vancouver campus and is open to any graduate student who is interested in teaching or TAing. We will explore five themes at this year’s event:

  1. TA wellness
  • Self advocacy and negotiation strategies for TAs
  • How your TAship can help your career
  • Faculty-TA relationship
  • Improving your time management

Graduate School can be a difficult time, managing competing demands and deadlines from research and coursework, Teaching and TAing, and of course maintaining our own personal relationships, hobbies, and personal development. TAs are often especially challenged, in the expectation to support students, maintain their programs, and elements of their personal lives are put on hold or sidetracked. These sessions focus on how to manage your life as a TA so that it fits into, and perhaps even enhances your overall wellness.

Pre-session Post-session
  • What does “wellness” mean to you?
  • Based on the sessions you took, what are two to three strategies you will implement to maintain or improve your feeling of wellbeing in your role as a TA?
  • How does your role at the university as a TA impact your wellness?

 

2019 TA Institute: Wellness

Post-session questions
  • Please include your name if you would like to receive credit for completing this theme.
  • Please provide an email address to receive a copy of your responses.

 

  1. Teaching and Learning Space(s)
  • TA'ing a Community Engaged Learning course: exploring the roles, tension points and opportunities for professional development
  • Making Space: supporting inclusive classrooms
  • Faculty-TA relationship

Sometimes, we can be tempted to think of teaching and learning as discrete processes, a task that students and teachers work at and accomplish, and whose resources, challenges, and meanings are fully contained within the lessons and the content being learned. However, all teaching, all learning, and all knowledge are set within multiple contexts — social, historical and technological — which learning both helps to form, and is informed by, whether we know it or not. In these sessions, we will think about how teaching and learning are situated in the multiple spaces in which they occur, and how to make the most of these contexts for the benefit of our diverse learners.

Pre-session Post-session
  • What sorts of things do you normally teach about as a TA/Instructor (not course codes, but topics, or a brief description of what you teach you might give to a relative who asks what you do)?
  • What contexts/places impact your work as a TA and how do they have that impact?

Agree/Disagree (1–5)

What I teach is informed by, or in some way impacted by, the following places and contexts:

  • The fact that we teach on unceded, traditional Musqueam territory.
    Briefly explain your ranking.
  • The fact that other people in the classroom space (instructors and students) have diverse backgrounds and experiences.
    Briefly explain your ranking.
  • The non-academic communities in which the work of my discipline is used or (in some cases) work as research partners (e.g. by farmers if studying agriculture, by practicing medical doctors if studying medicine, by residents of the DTES in Sociology, etc.)
    Briefly explain your ranking.
  • What strategies will you engage in to maintain positive relationships with those contexts that support student learning?

 

2019 TA Institute: Teaching and learning spaces

Post-session questions
  • Please include your name if you would like to receive credit for completing this theme.
  • Please provide an email address to receive a copy of your responses.

 

  1. Experiential learning
  • TA'ing a Community Engaged Learning course: exploring the roles, tension points and opportunities for professional development
  • Experiential Learning Theory
  • Facilitating discussions
  • Canvas as an Experiential Learning Space

How can we as instructors help students to meaningfully interact with and have an experience of the things we want to teach them in a way that encourages deep, lifelong learning? Planning our teaching intentionally in ways that alternate between “trying things out” — having a meaningful, well aligned interaction with something they are attempting to learn, and providing time, space, and possibly structure to support reflection on and integration of those experiences into a wider understanding is the heart of experiential learning. But abstractly describing the theory, and actually embedding it in concrete practices are two different things (or two different sides of the same thing?) In these sessions we will explore different ways of guiding students through this essential cycle of learning to build genuine understanding.

Pre-session Post-session
  • Briefly explain what it means to you to have students actively experiment and "try out" things in the discipline you are TAing in (biology, philosophy, mechanical engineering, etc.). Be specific. Do you think experimentation in learning is useful for students in your discipline? Why or why not?
  • What ways have you seen or practiced that encourage reflection in students in your discipline (biology, philosophy, mechanical engineering, etc.)? Do you think reflection is useful for students in your discipline? Why or why not?

 

  1. Teaching with technology
  • Canvas as an Experiential Learning Space
  • Learning Analytics
  • Presentation and guest lecturing skills

Changes in technology have made their way into classroom spaces, increasing speed, connectivity, and opening up a new space of possibility. But, as in all things, technology in the classroom alone does not ensure good teaching or effective learning. How can we best use technologies to support student learning?

Pre-session Post-session
  • What technologies do you regularly use or see used in teaching in the classroom?
  • What makes the use of technology to support learning effective? What makes it ineffective?

 

  1. Teaching skills
  • Presentation and guest lecturing skills
  • Facilitating discussions
  • Making Space: supporting inclusive classrooms
  • Improving your time management
  • Experiential learning

The building blocks of good teaching are the techniques and skills we bring to bear on helping our students learn. These involve decisions on how we present, how we organize our lessons, ourselves, the discussions we have, and space in the classroom. But teaching skill is more than a vast library of tips and tricks; it is judgment about when, how, and why to use these techniques in order to help your students learn. In these sessions, you will explore not only a wide range of skills and techniques, but an exploration into the how and why of the use of these approaches to further enrich your teaching.

Pre-session Post-session
In your teaching/TA-ing, rate how well you think you perform in each of the following areas:

  • Organization/time management
  • Lecturing/presenting
  • Asking questions that help students learn
  • Creating a positive classroom environment for all of my students
  • Encouraging students to work/talk together to enhance learning
  • What are two to three changes you plan to make in your approach to teaching in the next month?
In your teaching/TA-ing experience, how often do you use each of the following techniques to teach?

  • I don't have any experience teaching yet/only do marking as a TA
  • Lecture (1–5; never–always)
  • Answering student questions (Socratic Method)
  • In-class discussion
  • In-class demonstrations/videos
  • In-class role-plays
  • Other active learning techniques

For the ones you use most frequently, why do you use them? For the ones you use least frequently, why don't you use them much?

  • What is one change you plan to make in your approach to teaching in the next year?
  • Why have you prioritized these changes?

 

2019 TA Institute: Teaching skills

Post-session questions
  • Please include your name if you would like to receive credit for completing this theme.
  • Please provide an email address to receive a copy of your responses.