Highlights from the DTAR TA Symposium

80 Graduate students came together on Thursday, August 18 in the Rockwell Pavilion with the goal of improving their teaching as UH TAs. The TA Symposium was hosted by the CTE’s Division of TA Resources, staffed by Aymara Boggiano, Bruce Martin, and Allison Wright, as well as CTE Co-Director Dave Mazella.After a short presentation by Cengage rep Janlyn Reed and a lunch provided by Catering on Cullen and Cengage Learning, TAs listened to presentations on teaching, focusing on pedagogical principles from How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Good Teaching. In addition to discussing research and theory about effective teaching, TAs had the chance to work together to plan lessons and activities that would engage their students and improve learning.

Another important element of the Symposium was the introduction of DTAR’s Google+  page, giving TAs a place to talk about their fears, excitement, concerns, and successes. In addition to providing a way to unite the TA cohort, DTAR is also preparing a module on using Google+ and other social media in the classroom as ways to engage students, hold virtual office hours for those that cannot make it to campus, and bring course content into thee 21st century.

At the end of the Symposium, three TAs in Economics–Teodora Stoica, Shreyasee Das, and Michael Clark–were awarded the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) for their work this summer reading, discussing, and practicing effective pedagogy with TA supervisor Ruxandra Prodan.

The Symposium answered President Khator’s call for wider implementation of high-impact practices by showing TAs how to put such practices into effect in their own courses.

The principles of learning discussed on Thursday, along with the Certificate of University Teaching, and the Symposium, are an important part of recognizing the role that TAs play in undergraduate education. As instructors of small sections, labs, and introductory classes, TAs often provide the most direct contact first-year students have with instructors. Research shows that relationships formed with instructors in a student’s first year will directly impact whether she will persist with her degree until graduation.

Training TAs to teach effectively well doesn’t just impact the TAs–preparing them for future careers in the academy and providing them with credentials for the job market–it’s also vital for undergraduate students and the university as a whole.

How do you see the relationship between TAs and retention at UH, and how can the university help TAs do more to improve the quality of undergraduate education?

Cheers,
Allison Laubach Wright
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