Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs, more commonly referred to as TAs) are essential members of the University’s instructional community, providing an invaluable service by their teaching and interactions with undergraduate students. They also enhance the influence of the faculty and provide undergraduates with regular, personalized instruction. Teaching experience is an important asset for graduate students entering the job market.
TAs in the Department of Geological Sciences fulfill two primary roles: laboratory assistants and lecture assistants. Laboratory assistants teach introductory and upper-level laboratories. Lecture assistants are assigned to work with a professor who is teaching a large lecture class. Some graduate students may be assigned as instructional assistants who provide instructional support to the department and to faculty outside of regular classroom teaching
Duties of the Laboratory Teaching Assistant (TA) for introductory labs generally include short lectures to introduce lab assignments, grading exams and lab assignments, holding office hours, and supervising individual lab sections. Laboratory assistants for upper-level labs are supervised by the professor teaching the lecture section associated with the lab. Each lab is different, and training and supervision are handled by the professor in charge of the class.
Duties of the Lecture Assistant (LA) vary depending on the particular class, but they may include any of the following: attending lecture, taking attendance, photocopying, pulling & refiling slides and teaching samples, setting up audio visual equipment, helping the professor write and grade assignments and exams, giving occasional lectures, proctoring exams, holding office hours, and assisting the professor with other teaching responsibilities as needed.
All departmental TAs must attend an orientation session and workshop at the beginning of the fall semester provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning. They also must attend a half-day departmental training session during orientation led by the faculty member in charge of TA training (currently Dr. John M. Dennison) and the Department of Geological Sciences Wheeler Teaching Fellow. The Chief TA for introductory laboratories conducts weekly meetings to discuss teaching strategies and problems.
For administrative purposes, assistantship assignments are allocated in thirds. Each introductory lab equals one-third of an assignment; upper-level labs can equal up to three-thirds of an assignment. Each third generally requires between five and seven hours of work per week.
Evaluations of TAs for introductory labs are performed each semester by a faculty member or committee and the Wheeler Teaching Fellow who visit and videotape classes in progress. Each visit is followed up by a meeting with the TA to discuss his/her performance. TAs for upper-level labs are evaluated and supervised by the professor teaching the lecture. Also, all TAs are evaluated by the standard departmental evaluation process at the end of each semester. Satisfactory performance by TAs includes being prepared to teach labs, communicating effectively with students, grading exams and assignments fairly and promptly, and holding adequate office hours for students.
The department has two teaching awards that can be given annually to outstanding TAs. The Walter H. Wheeler Teaching Award and the Walter H. Wheeler Fellowship recognize and reward the teaching abilities and accomplishments of TAs.
Depending on departmental needs, the duties of a Instructional Assistant (IA) may include anything from running errands to computer maintenance.