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TA Effective Teaching

These tips have been collected over time from previous Teaching Assistants.  Feel free to suggest additional tips to add to these lists!

Build a Relationship with the Students

  • Be approachable -- smile, laugh with the students, be friendly.
  • Be enthusiastic about their ability to learn, your ability to help, and the content area.
  • Call the students by name.
  • Be honest and positive.
  • Treat all students with dignity and respect -- don't play favorites or avoid students.
  • Care enough about the students to actually help them.
  • Give the students your total attention -- do not be distracted by your own homework, etc.
  • Keep student trust by keeping their information and performance private.
  • If you are not sure how to answer a question, ask for help and learn with the student.
  • Be sensitive to indicators of emotional stress and disabilities of any kind.  Be familiar with student resources for help with these problems.

Be a Good Teacher

  • Know the material - work out the problems yourself, review manuals/books, and identify extra helps that might be useful.
  • Reinforce material presented by the professor, but from a different point of view.
  • Help students identify a goal for their time with you.  Ask open ended questions about their assignments to identify their area of need.  Get agreement on the focus of your time together.
  • Ask effective questions.  Answer questions with questions.
  • Praise good work and original thinking.
  • Teach students how to use their book; assume that they have done their reading.
  • Let the students do the work.  Offer praise when the student is heading in the right direction.
    • Have the student solve for the unknown first, before going to the calculator.  Emphasize that they are learning a process that applies to multiple problems.
    • Focus on the concept, not just this specific answer. 
    • Don't do the problem for them - get the student to think about the next step.
    • Explain the context in a simple manner.
  • Confirm that the student has been adequately helped before moving on.

Tips for Groups

  • Encourage questions, involvement, and debate.
  • Allow students to answer each others' questions.
  • Help the students group together to work on the same problem.
  • Ask students if they need help, even if they aren't asking questions.

Tips for Labs

  • Give the students as much hands-on experience as safety allows.
  • Make the labs as interesting as possible.
  • Notify one of the Lab TAs or the Lab Supervisor if equipment is not working properly.
  • Let students sign up on a list for your help - they can then be productively engaged while waiting.