Selecting and Training Graduate Teaching Assistants: Empowering Potential Colleagues in the Classroom
Teaching assistants generally fall into one of two categories. The first is that of the reader or grader who assists a professor by evaluating written exams and papers. The second is the teaching assistant who develops personal contact with students by conducting review sessions, group or individual office hours, and/or class lectures.
During the author's 22-year tenure at The Heinz College of Public Policy and Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), she has worked with more than fifty TAs in the second category. What she's discovered is that the process of selecting and training TAs is as important to their success in the classroom as a good admissions process is to building an outstanding student body.
This presentation will describe a process for TA selection by answering each of the following questions:
1. How can a teaching assistant applicant pool be developed?
2. Once this pool is identified, what criteria determine which applicants qualify for a personal interview with the instructor?
3. During the interview, what kinds of questions elicit the most useful information?
4. Once chosen, what kind of training do new TAs receive? To what extent can current TAs contribute to the training process?
5. What are the potential benefits of such a time-consuming screening process?
The response to question #5 will address the extent to which the selection and training process described empowers development of teaching assistants as co-teachers. Responses to each question will include specific examples based on classroom experience but also leave time for audience questions and interactions at the end of the session.
Keywords: Training, Selection, Teaching Assistants, Collaboration, Empowerment, Learning
Dr. Pamela Lewis
Teaching Professor, H. John Heinz III College of Public Policy and Management/Information Systems, Carnegie Mellon University
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Strategic Presentation Skills, H. John Heinz III College, Carnegie Mellon University