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A Teaching Assistant Training Program With A Focus On Teaching Improvement And Graduate Student Development

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.42.1 - 1.42.7



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Paper Authors

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William W. Predebon

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Peck Cho

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2655 .— - ..-. .—

—. A. Teaching Assistant Training Program with a Focus on Teaching Improvement and Graduate Student Development

Peck Cho, William Predebon Michigan Technological University


This paper presents a case study of a teaching assistants (TA’s) training program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. This training program may be unique in that it is designed to achieve dual objectives: to improve the quality of undergraduate instruction by graduate TA’s and to develop leadership skills in graduate students for their professional growth. The second objective was deemed necessary to provide the TA’s who do not intend to pursue a teaching profession with an incentive to accept a very demanding program. The program consists of approximately fifteen hours spent during an orientation session given a week before the beginning of the academic year and another fifteen hours in weekly sessions distributed throughout the first quarter of the academic year. The topics covered during the orientation session include: learning styles, cognition theory, human development theory, diversity, and techniques for organization and presentation. The weekly seminar consists of discussions on just-in-time topics such as preparing quizzes, dealing with difficult students, and evaluating students. TA’s are also asked to give mock presentations which are video-taped and analyzed in private at a later time. Throughout the training, various communication and interpersonal skills are emphasized and demonstrated. An analysis of teaching evaluations conducted before and after the training shows a marked improvement in the performance of TA’s. Also, survey results showed that the TA’s in the program are satisfied with the support and nurturing they have received for teaching and for their professional development. This TA training program has recently been presented to the entire campus as a model program.


In the Fall of 1994, we were commissioned by Michigan Technological University (MTU) to develop a new teaching assistant (TA) training program for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM). At that time we had a TA training program that was administered by the University Center for Teaching Excellence and offered to new TA’s from all departments during the week preceding the first day of class. The program consisted of a two-hour long session on “what to do on the first day of class” followed by a two-hour long practice session. Foreign TA’s underwent additional six-hour long discussion session on American classroom culture. These sessions were thought to be inadequate in preparing TA’s for effective classroom and laboratory instruction, and we were given a free-hand in developing a new training program.

When we studied the programs offered by other schools we found out that many schools offer one form of TA training or another and that there is a great variety. We found informal TA training programs that are based on individual mentorship as well as formal programs with a substantial commitment from the administration. The .

---- .,\~2&, .:4 } 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘o.+,~y~’:

Predebon, W. W., & Cho, P. (1996, June), A Teaching Assistant Training Program With A Focus On Teaching Improvement And Graduate Student Development Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6311

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