Presenter Information

Sarah Vonhof, SUNY

Location

Engel 223

Event Website

http://www.cpe.vt.edu/cuenr/index.html

Start Date

27-3-2010 4:30 PM

End Date

27-3-2010 5:00 PM

Description

After working with almost forty undergraduate teaching assistants over the past six years, I have developed and refined a program to effectively utilize these students as teaching assistants. At first I registered one or two students for individual independent study projects, but this has since evolved into a new formal course offering and a group or “class” of three to five teaching assistants per semester. This presentation explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of using undergraduate students to fulfill responsibilities that are typically assigned to graduate students. An undergraduate teaching assistantship program can benefit both students and instructors. Instructors can find classroom assistance in times of "eroding resources" and fewer GA allocations, while students can learn leadership and management skills. In many ways, undergraduate teaching assistants can provide the same kind of benefits and support as graduate teaching assistants. They can answer questions and tutor students, which decreases an instructor’s contact hours and e‐mail load. My TAs hold two “library hours” per week. They can also grade exams and assignments depending on an institution’s policies. (At my institution, they must be hired as Graders in order to evaluate and grade subjective work.) I have also had students interested in teaching help write exams, explore ways to improve assignments, and investigate student perceptions of teaching and learning methods. Conversely, there are some disadvantages that come with undergraduate teaching assistants. Most undergraduates require more management and oversight. One cannot delegate responsibility with the same degree of confidence as with graduate students. I find that I must send e‐mail reminders about grading sessions or meetings. Since these students tend to have very full schedules‐‐ between classes and jobs and activities‐‐ scheduling must be done early in the semester. Utilizing TAs for grading requires thorough training on grading rubrics and initially close supervision. Another potential difficulty is adequate communication. After being disappointed many times, and after serious misunderstandings about independent study projects, I have learned to be exceedingly clear about my expectations. All of these pitfalls can be easily avoided with sound administration, communication, and oversight. And the promises of undergraduate teaching assistants can be realized.

Comments

Citation: Vonhof, S. 2010. Undergraduate teaching assistants: promises and pitfalls. UENR Biennial Conference, Session Innovations in Pedagogy-General, Paper Number 1. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cuenr/Sessions/Pedagogy/1/.

 
Mar 27th, 4:30 PM Mar 27th, 5:00 PM

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants: Promises and Pitfalls

Engel 223

After working with almost forty undergraduate teaching assistants over the past six years, I have developed and refined a program to effectively utilize these students as teaching assistants. At first I registered one or two students for individual independent study projects, but this has since evolved into a new formal course offering and a group or “class” of three to five teaching assistants per semester. This presentation explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of using undergraduate students to fulfill responsibilities that are typically assigned to graduate students. An undergraduate teaching assistantship program can benefit both students and instructors. Instructors can find classroom assistance in times of "eroding resources" and fewer GA allocations, while students can learn leadership and management skills. In many ways, undergraduate teaching assistants can provide the same kind of benefits and support as graduate teaching assistants. They can answer questions and tutor students, which decreases an instructor’s contact hours and e‐mail load. My TAs hold two “library hours” per week. They can also grade exams and assignments depending on an institution’s policies. (At my institution, they must be hired as Graders in order to evaluate and grade subjective work.) I have also had students interested in teaching help write exams, explore ways to improve assignments, and investigate student perceptions of teaching and learning methods. Conversely, there are some disadvantages that come with undergraduate teaching assistants. Most undergraduates require more management and oversight. One cannot delegate responsibility with the same degree of confidence as with graduate students. I find that I must send e‐mail reminders about grading sessions or meetings. Since these students tend to have very full schedules‐‐ between classes and jobs and activities‐‐ scheduling must be done early in the semester. Utilizing TAs for grading requires thorough training on grading rubrics and initially close supervision. Another potential difficulty is adequate communication. After being disappointed many times, and after serious misunderstandings about independent study projects, I have learned to be exceedingly clear about my expectations. All of these pitfalls can be easily avoided with sound administration, communication, and oversight. And the promises of undergraduate teaching assistants can be realized.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cuenr/Sessions/Pedagogy/1