Assisting a Professor
If you will be assisting a professor, you may work on a one-to-one basis, or you may be one of several graduate teaching assistants working in a large survey class. In either case, meet with the professor before the course begins to help with pre-course preparations and to establish the channels of communication that will be needed for the semester. These initial meetings will also help provide an opportunity for you to gain insight into the professor's approach to teaching and to clarify any questions about the course, the role of discussion/lab sections in the overall course design, and your responsibilities as a TA. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while preparing to assist a professor with a course.
Course Goals, Learning Outcomes
Review the course syllabus and texts.
- Are you clear on the goals of the course?
- Do you understand the content and scope of the course?
- If the professor has taught the course before, ask to see copies of exams from previous years. What is the most important information that students should learn and remember from this course?
- What are the most important ideas that students should understand upon course completion?
- What skills should students develop while taking this course?
Check with the professor you will be assisting. Will you be required to attend all class sessions? If you are leading discussion sections, you may need to attend lectures to insure that you are well-informed on what material is covered.
Once you have your teaching assignment, it is a good idea to check out your classroom and or lab before classes begin. Familiarize yourself with the room. Will you need to bring in chalk, dry erase board markers? What is the technology set-up? If you are using an overhead projector, where can you find extra bulbs? If you will be using PowerPoint or slides, will you need a laptop or projector, extension cords or tables, or is the room computer ready? Do you have the contact information for technology support in case you need it during class?
Discussion Section/Lab Section Syllabus
A good syllabus is like a contract; it should serve to clarify the professor’s expectations, your role in the course as graduate teaching assistant, and the students’ responsibilities. As a grader, or lab/discussion section leader, you may or may not have had a say in the development of the course syllabus. Even so, students will appreciate receiving a syllabus that covers the portion of the course that you teach. In a syllabus for your lab or discussion section, provide students with clear and specific information about the professor’s policies and expectations regarding attendance, absences, participation, plagiarism, and late assignments. Also include your office location, office hours, and email, along with any additional contact information that might be helpful for your students.
If you will be responsible for any facet of the evaluation of student performance, you should carefully review The University of Georgia’s policies governing students’ rights of access and privacy regarding grades and other student records. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.reg.uga.edu/ferpa_privacy_act. It is also discussed later in this handbook, and can be obtained from your supervisor or department head. Equitable grading practices are necessary to assure fair treatment of students, and adherence to all University policies regarding students’ rights to privacy. For more information on grading, check out the section on Evaluating Students.