The Geography Department kicked off the Fall semester 2015 with a very lively and interactive workshop designed to launch our new Teaching-Assistant Handbook and to build a framework by which to develop an effective discussion section. The Handbook provides information to new and experienced TAs on topics such as, roles and responsibilities of TAs, advice and tips on effective teaching, guidance on training opportunities and the pros and cons of TA evaluation.
The workshop was attended by 12 graduate students and provided an opportunity for TAs to network and exchange experience and ideas. Together we agreed on a topic to use as a test discussion topic and from there we established a number of key messages to be conveyed, how best to convey the messages (use of images, videos, maps, etc.), how to design appropriate engaging questions to get the discussion underway and finally how to create useful exit and/or homework assignments. Some of the key points that were raised include:
- a discussion topic should be precise and focused (for example, instead of discussing Climate change it might be more useful to discuss how climate warming might impact plants and animals in the wild)
- the section should be well structured – tell the students what to expect during the class
- provide some background and clear definitions of the topic
- time management – give the students time to understand the topic and ensure there is enough time to complete any in-class exercises
Given the success of this workshop we will review the output at a follow-on workshop and identify possible areas where further training might be useful.