Resources for Faculty: Supervising and Mentoring TAs
The start of a new semester often brings a fresh opportunity for faculty to work with TAs who are either new to the role or new to your specific course. As such, the start of the semester is an excellent time to review resources that will help you supervise and mentor your TAs, as well as resources to help your TAs prepare for their current roles and future careers.
A group of Provosts Teaching and Learning Fellows are working on a project to investigate the professional development nature of TA positions in the College of Sciences. Based on a series of focus groups with CoS faculty, the project has identified a number of best practices that Georgia Tech faculty use in supervising and mentoring their TAs. Recommendations include holding a semester kick-off meeting and regular TA team meetings throughout the semester to help clarify faculty expectations for their work. Review your course policies, including when TAs can make independent decisions and when to elevate issues up to you. Encourage TAs to calibrate their grades and to work together to develop grading efficiencies. A full report and supplemental web resource to define and support TA professional development is forthcoming.
“I grade the first set of lab reports alongside my TAs. This helps them learn what is most important and what is less important to emphasize in grading.” – Jennifer Leavy, Biological Sciences
“I make sure students in the class are aware of TAs’ efforts and show appreciation when they go the extra mile.” – Victor Breedveld, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
“We give written TA assessments at the end of every term. I meet with TAs in one-on-one meetings to discuss their performance and give constructive feedback.” – Mary E. Peek, Chemistry and Biochemistry
“I try to bring one new teaching strategy to each weekly meeting so that, by the end of the semester, the TAs have a small toolkit of teaching strategies.” – Chrissy Spencer, Biological Sciences
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers a variety of resources to support TA development:
- Require your new TAs to attend TA Orientation. Led by experienced TAs, this training includes academic policies (FERPA, academic integrity, disability services) as well as techniques TAs can use to support student learning in classrooms, labs, recitation/studios, and office hours. TA Orientation satisfies the Board of Regents TA training expectations.
- Use this TA checklist at your semester kick-off meeting to clarify common TA roles and expectations.
- Review the section of the Teaching Guidebook about supervising and mentoring TAs, starting on page 94. This section of the guidebook offers useful suggestions about preparing for the first day of class, following up after the first week of class, preparing for the first test, and other ways to support your TAs’ professional development throughout the semester.
- According to the Board of Regents expectations, all TAs should receive regular assessments of their performance, including student and faculty feedback. If your TAs facilitate student learning through studio, recitation, lecture or lab sections, encourage TAs to collect early course feedback from students (faculty can use this tool, too!). CTL also offers classroom observations for graduate students in teaching roles conducted by CTL faculty and/or our trained Graduate Teaching Fellows.
- TAOS is the TA version of CIOS and can provide a valuable start to TAs’ teaching portfolios. If your school does not automatically activate TAOS for all TAs, ask your course coordinator to set up TAOS for your course. This form of evaluation and feedback is most useful for TAs who have been assigned specific student-facing duties. (TAOS is administered by the Office of Academic Effectiveness.)
Mentoring TAs as future faculty not only enhances their ability to perform well in the position, but it also provides a richer learning environment for our undergraduate students. Outstanding TAs are recognized for their contributions to the learning environment at Georgia Tech through the annual TA Awards program. Schools select an outstanding undergraduate TA, graduate TA, and graduate student instructor each year who can then compete for the Institute-wide awards. Faculty and staff recognize these outstanding students at CTL’s annual TA and Future Faculty Awards day in April. Perhaps your TA will be the next TA of the Year!
If you have questions or would like more resources about supporting TAs, reach out to the TA and Future Faculty Initiatives team at CTL.
Dr. Kate Williams, Assistant Director for TA Development and Future Faculty Initiatives
Dr. Tammy McCoy, TA Development and Future Faculty Specialist
Dr. David Lawrence, Associate Director