Advantages of Your Teaching Assistantship

You stand to benefit greatly from your role as a Teaching Assistant.

Graduate Teaching Assistants are invaluable members of the teaching community at the University of Georgia. Whether designing and teaching a course as instructor of record, leading break-out discussion sections, staffing a lab, or grading undergraduate examinations, teaching assistantships afford graduate students the opportunity to learn about the art of teaching while passing on to undergraduates an understanding of their chosen field of study. For many students, you will be the representative of your academic discipline, perhaps the last one they will ever have. Scary as that may sound, you are in a better position than many tenured faculty to reflect the relevance and dynamic energy of your field. As such, many graduate students find their TA experience to be a key part of their graduate education.

Besides providing the means by which you pay for graduate school tuition and living expenses, you will develop skills that will be vital to your professional career. Teaching, for instance, may be the best way to learn your own discipline. Many TAs have come to realize just how quickly and how thoroughly they have learned essential material in their fields by having to teach introductory classes or labs. As renowned teaching scholar Wilbert McKeachie states in his book Teaching Tipsa, teaching is often better than being taught in terms of learning new material. The basic principle is that in order to communicate something, you must be able to explain it in your own words or in words that your students will understand.

If you are preparing for a career outside the classroom, the effective teaching skills you hone as a TA can be applied elsewhere. In almost any profession or career you choose, you will be called upon to explain your research results, or present material in a clear and concise manner, lead group discussions, or evaluate the work of others. The University of Georgia offers a wide range of resources to assist you in your teaching. First and foremost are the colleagues in your department, including your department head, graduate coordinator, faculty advisor, and fellow TAs. Outside of your department, the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning has a wealth of information to assist you in your TA preparation. This handbook should help you develop classroom strategies and assessment techniques and will introduce you to campus resources to improve your teaching.

If college teaching is your ultimate goal, the future benefits of your teaching assistantship are obvious. Seeing firsthand what teaching is really like, you can confirm or revise your career aspirations and develop a philosophy of teaching based on your experiences. A resume, curriculum vitae (c.v.), or teaching portfolio that demonstrates proven teaching experience, and letters of recommendation that affirm your teaching competence will carry weight in the increasingly rigorous market for academic appointments.

aMcKeachie, W. M., & Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.