Center for Teaching and Learning

Teaching resources for international TAs

On this page you’ll find strategies and resources to advance your teaching at UW:

Five things to know before you start teaching

1. Know yourself.

  • What helps you learn best? How do you study? What motivates you to study?
  • How were you taught? What kinds of teaching styles/methods are you used to? What teaching strategies are the most helpful (and unhelpful) for your learning?
  • What was a typical day like for you as an undergraduate student?

2. Know your students.


  • How will students’ geographic background affect how they learn?
  • What are your students’ reference points – what kinds of examples will make sense to them?
  • How will their age influence how they learn?
  • What responsibilities do they have in their lives that might affect their studies?
  • What life experiences do they bring that might benefit class discussion, class dynamic, and individual learning?
  • What kinds of classes have they taken in the past? How prepared are they for your class?
  • Why are they taking your class?

Get a student perspective on TAs at UW
What helps students learn?

3. Know your university.

The University of Washington provides a wide range of resources for all of its students. Learn more about UW:

4. Know your course.

  • What kinds of prerequisites (if any) are required for students to take this class?
  • How familiar are you with the course content?
  • What kinds of questions might your students have about the course content? How will you answer them?
  • What parts of the course will be easy for students? What parts will be difficult
  • What kind of course are you teaching? Where does it fit into the departmental sequence? University requirements?
  • What kinds of questions might your students have about the course content? How will you answer them?

5. Know your supervising instructor.

  • What does the instructor expect you to accomplish in your section?
  • How much autonomy/control do you have over the section content and instructional methods?
  • How does the instructor communicate information to you? How proactive will you have to be to get the information?
  • What is the instructor’s approach to solving problems or conflicts? How will you best work together?
  • What is the instructor’s teaching style/philosophy? How can you complement the instructor’s approach in your section?

Aligning your classes: a framework for teaching

One framework to consider for your teaching is the Alignment Model, which focuses on communication strategies that help instructors reinforce the connections between their course content, students, and themselves (Wulff 2005). Below are the four aspects of the alignment model and teaching strategies that support them:

1. Build rapport with your students

  • Get to know your students.
  • Learn their names.
  • Ask about their interests in the class.
  • Learn about their prior experiences with the course content.
  • You can ask them to write this information on a 3×5 card, fill out a survey, or interview and introduce another student in class.
  • Ask informal questions before class begins (e.g., “How are you today?” “Did you watch the Huskies game?”). You can talk to students individually, or all of the students who are already in class.
  • Establish ground rules for respect and discussion.

2. Organize your course intentionally and clarify the structure for students

  • Write an agenda for the class period on the board at the beginning of class.
  • Begin class with a warm-up problem or review from the previous class.
  • Wrap up discussions to emphasize key points; ask, “what did we learn? Where does this lead us next?”
  • Use the board/overhead to track key points in a discussion.
  • Preview the content for upcoming class meetings.

3. Engage your students through relevant in-class activities with clear expectations

  • Prepare for discussions: clarify your goals, anticipate students’ questions, and ask students to respond to some questions before the discussion (outside of class or in groups)

4. Encourage students to interact with one another and with you

  • Check in with students—ask if they did not understand something you said, and provide opportunities for them to ask questions throughout the class period.
  • Offer students feedback on group work, discussions, and participation.
  • Gather feedback from students about your course—what is helping them learn, and what suggestions they have to improve their learning.

References & resources

  • Wulff, D. ed. (2005). Aligning for Learning: Strategies for Teaching Effectiveness. Bolton, MA: Anker.

UW resources

  • English 105, a course for international TAs.
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning offers a number of workshops, individual consultations, etc.
  • UW-IT offers help with learning technologies, such as Canvas, clickers, Panopto, and many others.
  • Remember: your department is often your best resource. Don’t hesitate to ask other TAs, your supervisor, graduate program advisor, or a professor if you have a question or concern about your teaching.
  • Books available at the UW Libraries:
    • Hendrix, K.G. and Hebbani, A., eds. (2014). Hidden Roads: Nonnative English-Speaking International Professors in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (includes contributions from international TAs)
    • Sarkisian, E. (2006). Teaching American Students: A Guide for International Faculty and Teaching Assistants in Colleges and Universities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.

Other resources