TA Handbook

Welcome to teaching at Western!

As a teaching assistant, you make an important contribution to the quality of undergraduate education at the university. You have the chance to inspire, encourage and guide students who embark on a learning journey in your discipline. As a TA, you will work with students in lectures and tutorials, facilitate their labs, mark their exams and answer their questions during office hours. You will be a resource and a mentor to them as they grapple with theories in your discipline and try to decide how they will use the knowledge they learn from you after they graduate.

This online handbook is used as a resource for the Western Teaching Assistant Training Program (TATP) but it is a useful link for any teaching assistant to have. If you have not taken TATP and would like to learn more about it, click here.

We hope that the handbook will answer many of the initial questions you may have about your TA role, and serve as a link to further resources as you begin your career as a TA at Western. If you have any other questions about classroom management, engaging students in active learning or using technology in your classroom during the year, the staff at the Teaching Support Centre are always happy to answer them in person, or via email at tatp@uwo.ca.

Teaching as Professional Development
Teaching is an important professional development opportunity for you. Whether you decide to pursue an academic career, work in industry, health care or government, the presentation and facilitation skills you develop and the leadership experience you gain will give you a competitive advantage in your chosen career.
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Lesson Design

Click on the links below to learn more

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Giving Effective Feedback

This section provides strategies for giving your students specific, meaningful feedback.

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Marking Practices
Setting comprehensive marking standards from the outset of your course allows you to be more consistent and effective for the duration of the semester. In the long run this will save you time and will support your students' learning more effectively. Remember, the grade you place on a paper, lab report, or exam may be the only form of communication you have with a student.
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Leading Discussions

When you lead a class discussion do you sometimes have trouble getting students to participate? Do you find that your discussions often go off topic? Does one student always dominate the conversation? Learning how to lead a discussion effectively can be a challenge. Finding a safe atmosphere in which to practice the skills can be even more challenging. Some of the models listed below will help you to be a more effective faciliator of class discussions. At TATP we will work through these models as a group and you will leave this session with instant discussion experience and the confidence to try these models in your own classes.

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Tutorials, Labs, and Office Hours

As a TA, you may teach in a wide variety of settings. Regular teaching assistant duties range from guiding students through laboratory experiments to leading discussions in a tutorial session to providing one-on-one guidance in office hours. Each of these situations draws on a different skill set and has its own unique set of rewards and challenges. This session describes typical tutorial, lab and office hour settings and provides tips for TAing as effectively as possible in each.

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Teaching in the Sciences and Engineering
Lab instruction combines many different aspects of teaching, including lecturing, organizing group work, leading hands-on learning, asking meaningful questions and evaluating student work. In the following sections, we will highlight the different roles and responsibilities of the lab TA and provide a collection of tips and tools to facilitate your transition into this role.
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TA Health and Wellness
As a graduate teaching assistant, you have many roles and responsibilities. In order to be happy and successful in these roles, you need to prioritize your health, safety, and wellness. 
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Teaching and Learning in a Diverse University Community
Students bring with them a learned set of beliefs, values, and norms about what are appropriate and inappropriate ways of thinking, behaving and communicating in the classroom. Students’ expectations about how we exchange ideas in a classroom differ in cultures around the world, and they may differ from region to region in Canada. The academic cultures of universities and disciplines also vary greatly.
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Dealing with Ethical Issues and Problem Students
Even the best-prepared TA will occasionally find themselves dealing with a difficult situation, whether in the form of malfunctioning equipment, a disgruntled student, or something else that they never could have predicted. At times like these, knowledge of key university services and policies can be invaluable. It is also useful to give some advance thought to common challenging situations and how you would deal with them. 
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The following are some important and useful resources that are available to you.

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