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Looking Back: Lessons Learned From Ten Years Of Training Teaching Assistants

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.277.1 - 2.277.9



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Paper Authors

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Virleen M. Carlson

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Susan C. Roberts

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Kathryn A. Hollar

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

Session 1655

Session 1655

Looking Back: Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Training Teaching Assistants

Susan C. Roberts, Kathryn A. Hollar, Virleen M. Carlson Cornell University

Introduction Over the past ten years, the teaching development program for engineering teaching assistants (TAs) at Cornell University has evolved from an optional lecture series run by faculty members to mandatory workshops facilitated by former engineering teaching assistants. Currently, 150- 200 TAs are certified each year in both a fall and spring program. This workshop series was initiated in 1987 when the numerous complaints about TAs received by the Engineering Office of Undergraduate Programs indicated a definite need for TA training. Additionally, a 1992 survey of Cornell’s College of Engineering undergraduates shows that at Cornell, TAs are an 1 important source of undergraduate instruction . Since the program was founded, the number of complaints has become practically zero. The goals of our program have matured through the years to include not only training TAs for their specific duties, but also giving them time management skills, an understanding of University policies, and diversity awareness. Inherent in these goals is the value of teaching and the importance in uniting TAs in a teaching community. This paper gives a ten year retrospect of our program and will discuss the changes in feedback procedures, structure, program content, budget, and current initiatives as well as the lessons we have learned. Throughout the paper, participant evaluation comments that helped to shape the program will be highlighted (in italics). We hope to provide a basis for other universities to start or improve a TA development program.

Feedback Feedback from program participants is an essential part of the TA Development Program. As we demonstrate throughout this paper, evaluation forms continue to play a major role in the evolution of the program. Feedback from TAs in the early years of the program, specifically comments on the challenges TAs encountered over the semester and their suggestions on content and timing, was instrumental in the restructuring of the program to include issues that are relevant and of practical use to TAs.

As the program has changed, feedback forms have been shortened from three pages to one page that is both qualitative and quantitative, yet can be completed in five minutes. Originally, comments were solicited on each seminar, the timing of the program, and which topics should be eliminated or added. In addition, participants were asked to evaluate their own teaching styles and share the challenges they faced. As more of the participants' suggestions on additional workshop content have been incorporated, responses to the question “which additional topics would you like to see addressed?” have dwindled, and the question was eliminated. In retrospect, removal of this question may hinder the introduction of new ideas, so re-inclusion of this question is currently being considered. The current feedback form, which has not changed significantly since 1991, includes four questions in which TAs rate (on a scale of 1-5) the value

Carlson, V. M., & Roberts, S. C., & Hollar, K. A. (1997, June), Looking Back: Lessons Learned From Ten Years Of Training Teaching Assistants Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6670

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