TA Talk: Engaging TAs in Remote Teaching and Learning

Kate Williams, Assistant Director for TA Development and Future Faculty Initiatives
Sarah Kegley, International TA Program Manager
Center for Teaching and Learning

The end of the semester is often a stressful time for TAs, who must balance responsibilities to their TA assignments with their own classes and research expectations. The move to remote teaching further complicates this. Many TAs have left the Atlanta area, are attempting to establish a new work routine at home, and are likely to be worried about the impact of the coronavirus on their friends and family.

So– what are some ways to engage your TA within this new context? How can you maintain community with your TAs? What can or should a TA be asked to do as the end of the semester approaches? Here are some thoughts from the CTL TA and Future Faculty team.

Communication: Create a tentative communication plan to check-in several times each week through the end of the term. TAs should know when and how to contact you regularly, and in case of emergency.

Time: Remind yourself of how many hours per week your TA is supposed to be contributing to your course, and anticipate that the move to remote learning may have changed how much time it takes to complete various tasks. For example, TAs have reported that they are now spending more time providing written rather than oral feedback to students. This is especially a challenge for international students and TAs. For specific strategies when working with international students and TAs, see this post about Instructional design and technological considerations and this post about teacher talk and communicative considerations.

Clarify Learning Goals: In the same way that remote teaching has changed how faculty deliver courses, the TAs’ work has likely changed as well. Clarify your revised learning goals for your course, and consider how you can best leverage your TAs’ efforts to achieve those goals.

Revising Duties: If you need to change TAs’ duties, consider negotiating and creating goals together. Communicate your expectations clearly, find out what training or support TAs need to perform their new duties, and invite their feedback.

Training and Development:  While many TAs are tech savvy, many remote teaching duties are likely to be new to them. Ensure they have access to campus support services such as Canvas training.

Sample TA Tasks: Your TAs can be an invaluable asset in this new teaching context.  Here are some specific remote teaching duties that TAs can perform to support your course:

  • Update the gradebook structure to reflect any new or cancelled assignments.
  • Update the calendar on Canvas to reflect the new assignments/dates.
  • Rewrite or revise test questions, essay questions, or create short quizzes.
  • Caption videos (being mindful of the time this could take!)
  • Create short videos of a specific concept, demo, problem-solution, etc.
  • Manage the Chat or Q&A tool during synchronous classes. Be sure to stop class periodically to incorporate these questions.
  • Load a rubric into SpeedGrader to use for grading.

As you can see, there are many ways to engage TAs even in times of remote learning. Remember that you are one of the TA’s main connections to campus life, especially now.

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers remote consultations for faculty and TAs. If you would like to discuss specific ways that your remote class could engage your TA, or if your TA needs assistance in performing any remote teaching duties, request a consultation using this form.

Thanks to our colleagues in the Center for Teaching and Learning at UGA for sharing their document “Working with TAs During Significant Disruptions” on which this post is based.




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