Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) are vitally important members of the University of Washington teaching community. As a TA, you may have one role or a combination of many different roles, including:
- Designing and teaching your own course
- Assisting a professor by leading a quiz section
- Staffing a laboratory
- Working in a departmental study center
The information and resources on this page are designed to help you prepare for your role(s) and responsibilities as a TA at the UW.
Preparing to teach
Advice from experienced TAs
We asked experienced TAs from across the UW to answer some of the most frequent questions new TAs have about teaching.
Different types of TA appointments
Being a TA can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have during your time at UW. To make certain you understand your role as a TA, confer with your faculty supervisor. It can also be helpful to talk to other TAs who have had the same type of appointment, or who have been a TA for the same course.
Designing your course and syllabus
An effective course design begins with understanding your students, deciding what you want them to learn, determining how you will measure student learning, and planning activities, assignments, and materials that support student learning. The syllabus provides the instructor and students with a common reference point that sets the stage for learning throughout the course.
Teaching the first day of class
A successful first day can be a key component of a successful quarter. You should envision the first day as more than just a time to review your syllabus, it is an opportunity for you to establish expectations, set the tone and to get to know your students.
What helps students learn?
Research on teaching effectiveness identifies a number of factors that contribute to student learning. In consulting with instructors about their teaching, observing their classes, and interviewing their students, we have observed these factors at work in a wide variety of classes.
What helps students learn
Student-centered approaches to teaching
Research demonstrates that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Instructors who adopt a student-centered approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement, helping everyone achieve the course’s learning objectives.
As a TA you might work with student writing in a number of ways: short-answer exams, essays, journals, blog posts, research assignments and so on. You may also take your students through the writing process by assigning drafts, encouraging peer response through structure or informal exercises, and using writing to facilitate active learning.
Assessment and grading
Assessing student learning
Practices related to grading—both as an assessment of student performance and as a mechanism through which students receive feedback on their work—vary widely across disciplines, course levels, departments, institutions and instructors. However, there are several strategies that most instructors agree contribute to successful grading.
Designing tests is an important part of assessing students understanding of course content and their level of competency in applying what they are learning. Whether you use low-stakes and frequent evaluations (quizzes), or high-stakes and infrequent evaluations (midterm and final), careful design will help provide more calibrated results.
Grading is an extremely complex task. Grades do not exist in a vacuum, but are part of the instructional process and serve as a feedback loop between instructor and student. Consequently, grading policy should be consistent with the learning objectives for the course.
Keeping accurate and thorough records of your evaluation of each student’s performance throughout the quarter is important. You should also keep your records for a while after the quarter is over because students may come back later to question a grade, finish an incomplete, or ask you to write a recommendation.
Cheating and plagiarism
It is unfortunate when it happens, but you may have to confront the possibility that a student has plagiarized or cheated on an assignment or examination. The University has carefully specified policies and procedures for addressing academic misconduct, and it is important for you to know what they are if you find yourself facing these problems.
Policies and professionalism
What would you do? These pages offer resources for dealing with situations that may arise in your classroom, online or in your interactions with students and faculty.
Teaching with technology
Teaching with technology can deepen student learning by supporting instructional objectives. However, it can be challenging to select the “best” tech tools while not losing sight of your goals for student learning.
The Graduate School
The Graduate School provides resources to help students navigate the complex process of completing a graduate education.