Outline for Spring 2012 TA Orientation

1:10 PM Friday January 20, 2012

200c Schermerhorn Hall

Be sure to read the TA Manual and this outline well before the start of the term. Bring your questions with you to the Orientation. We will review the following topics, though not necessarily in this order.

I. Introductions

II. Being a TA

III. Your responsibilities as a TA

IV. Special Privileges

V. Specific Sticky Issues

VI. How to get things done in the department

VII. Using the web, email, and CourseWorks in your teaching

VIII. Classrooms

IX. Misc issues re your TAship


I. Introductions

II. Being a TA (see TA Manual: Pedagogical Advice)

Most of you have a genuine interest in teaching. You're a TA not only because it's a requirement of the program and a critical part of your training for the Ph.D., but also because you have an enthusiasm for teaching psychology.

You will need to take the initiative to be sure you get the most out of your TAships

  • you will be intermediary between prof and students, so you need to know both well and meet with both frequently. A TA meeting with prof once a week is ideal
  • course planning
    • be involved, from beginning to end
  • preparation for each class
    • do it carefully, whether a lecture, section, or review session
  • you will need both mastery of the material and good communication skills
    • make a well-organized presentation (in review sessions, disc or lab sections)
    • be able to interact well with student; asking and answering questions
    • work effectively with students one-on-one
      • office hours -- liberal, flexible, inviting
        • 2 scheduled hours per week, plus by email appointment
      • be welcoming of students before and after class. Linger, smil, make eye contact. Try to learn their names.
      • help students learn to help themselves,
  • create a learning environment
    • through your own leadership, flexibility, energy, humor
  • anticipate difficulties students will have
    • talk to prof/previous TAs
    • prepare to help students with these topics (e.g. signal detection theory)
  • steps to improve your teaching
    • participate in the workshops and conferences of the GSAS Teaching Center
    • participate in our own Teaching Practicum, offered in alternate years
    • take advantage of opportunities to lecture or lead discussions
    • learn about new technologies at CCNMTL workshops
    • assemble a teaching portfolio
  • self-evalution; student evaluation

III. Your responsibilities as a TA (also see Teaching Guidelines)

    • Being available for the entire semester, as well as for
      • planning meetings prior to the semester
      • end of term exam and paper grading and grade entry
    • Attending all lectures and doing all assigned readings
    • Meeting with professor, weekly
    • Setting up electronic classrooms and laboratories
    • Preparation of course web sites
    • Assisting with Psychology Library reserves
    • Preparation and proctoring of exams
    • Grading exams and papers
    • Holding office hours for students: 2 scheduled hours per week
    • Conducting review sessions
      • not all students are able to fit these into their schedule
      • don't reveal what will, or won't, be on exam
      • good to ask for questions in advance, so you can prepare
      • you need to know the material you review
    • Offering guest lectures
      • special occasions matching your expertise with needs of a particular course
    • Leading lab sections (in 4 pt lab courses)
    • How much time will all of this take?
      On average, graduate teaching fellows should expect to spend 12-15 hours per week on a regular TAship, although some weeks will be lighter and some heavier. Time you put in during course planning and preparation before the term begins will be counted in the hours expected of you. Full time Undergraduate/Postbac TAs are paid for 180 hours per term, which works out to 12 hours per week if spread evenly over 15 weeks.

IV. see Special Privileges page for info about:

• Library: extended loan period and no fines
• Computing and email: more memory; printing allowance

• Photocopies of other course materials
• Desk copies of any books used in course
• CourseWorks privileges

• Access to electronic podiums
• Access to 200 b/c

V. Specific Sticky Issues

_ A. Testing, grading, and cheating

    • preventing plagiarism and cheating
      • be aware of methods of cheating, and create environment to discourage it
      • multiple copies of exams, scrambled questions (or alternatives)
      • careful proctoring, spaced seating, no advance exams, don't store exams on computers to which students have access
    • grading fairly
      • blind grading, esp if an undergrad TA is assigned to course
      • for essays or papers, have prof and other TAs review your grading on both high and low papers
      • mark written work so that others can understand your grading
    • posting grades

_ B. Dealing with difficult situations

    • Students will come with dire stories; some true, some not
      • only the prof has authority to grant exceptions, make-ups, etc.
      • prof should require Dean and/or Dr's note
    • Dealing with disturbed/distraught students
      • contact prof immediately
      • if prof not available, see me (Putnam) or another Program Advisor
        (Hart, Graham, Lindemann, Lau, Woolley)
      • if we're not available, contact
    • Health or mental health emergency contacts
      • general medical concerns: 212-854-2284 (after hours: 212-854-9797)
      • mental health concerns: 212-854-2878 (after hours: 212-854-9797)
      • if a student appears to be in immediate danger, call Public Safety (212-854-5555) or dial 911
    • Avoiding dual relationships
      • treat all students equally; don't do for one what you wouldn't do for all
      • romantic relationships: they do happen, but wait till term is over.
      • paid tutoring: not for students in the course you're TAing for.

See the Faculty resource pages at www.college.columbia.edu/facultyresources and www.columbia.edu/cu/vpas/teaching/index.html for useful information on these and other issues.

VI. How to get things done in the department

  • See Winnie McClarin in 406 to reserve and check out A/V equipment (transparency, film, video, and slide projectors, laser pointer, wireless mouse, cart, etc.). Special procedures may be required for early or late classes. Talk to Winnie about this.
  • Obtaining course supplies: send list to Winnie McClarin winnie@psych.columbia.edu
  • Copying handouts, exams, and transparencies (see Winnie)
    1. do-it-yourself jobs (quantities, card, key, paper, etc.). combo = ________
    2. 406 copies (when, why, how)
    3. Village Copier at 118th & Amsterdam
      • they pickup and deliver, or
      • you take and pickup (for quicker service)
      • get form from 406
  • Films and videos:
    • first check the Psychology Video Collection
      • most titles in the collection are now stored offsite; allow 2-3 weeks for retrieval
      • requested titles will be put on reserve in Geology Library
      • Warning: some Library videos no longer play properly; preview before using
    • If not in Psych Library collection, order through the Penn State Media collection at
  • Microphone for 614, backup mic for 501 : see Andres Torres in 406 Schermerhorn

VII. Using the web, CourseWorks, and email in your teaching

  • the web
    • linking course syllabi to dept web pages
      • syllabi are linked to Dir of Classes and dept curriculum materials:
        • send Andres Torres word or pdf files of new syllabi to post
        • ask Andres or Lois to correct links, if necessary
    • Psychweb membership
      • will allow you to publish web pages within the cu/psychology/ directory
      • read the Psychweb Guidelines
      • practice in your own cunix directory
      • once you're a competent web author, ask Peter for Psychweb membership
    • Take advantage of CCNMTL workshops on EdBlogs, Wikispaces, Podcasts
  • email distribution lists:
    • use SSOL to set up a list for your classes. requires instructor access.
      • do not make the list public; always use blind copy for addresses
    • use CourseWorks, but be aware that it may lag registration changes by 2-3 days
      • manually add new students

VIII. Classrooms

  • Reporting classroom problems
  • 200b and 200c use, training, and access
    • all grad students should have swipe access; other TAs may request access.
      • test card on both doors today. If don't get solid green light, report to Winnie McClarin .
      • outer door combination: ______
      • bathroom combination: _______
    • to reserve room for a review session or office hour:
      • check event calendar for availability
        • NOTE FOR Fall 2010: If you notice that classes have not yet been added to the 200b/c event calendar, you should check the Fall Week-at-a-glance page to see what is meeting there before requesting reservations.
      • read reservation form instructions and then Add a new Event
      • don't request the only available room if it is being used for Open Lab Hours.
      • for small groups, you can reserve 405 through Winnie McClarin
      • for larger groups, you can reserve an electronic classroom (allow 2 weeks notice).
    • top priority for our own Instructional Lab Rooms is the smooth functioning of scheduled classes and lab sections
      • therefore, we all need to know what we're doing and to follow the Lab Guidelines
      • before using the epodium or video projector, arrange for training with Peter Tripp or one of the lab TAs.
      • video projector lamps are fragile; don't turn on and off needlessly
      • Lab Asst and lab TAs will have regular hours to help with lab training, course web pages, etc.
  • Macs in 200B and C [Peter will talk to us about these.]
    • 200b/c guidelines
      • training before you use podium equipment; contact Peter or lab TA
      • personal and course files
      • software installation; contact Peter
      • shutting down computers: Don't
      • reporting problems (log book, phone and email to Peter)
      • sharing files and folders
      • no food or beverages at computer stations; remove food garbage to hallway
      • erase whiteboards after use
      • admitting and ejecting visitors before you lock up
    • other equipment:

IX. Misc issues re your TAship

• How's it going? What problems? Confusions? Concerns? Questions? see Lois.
• email, web, and phone mail issues
• reserving office hours in 200b/c or TA Office (318c = "Scantron")
• Do you need Scantron training?
• Psych web pages and the undergraduate InfoPack
• Reminder: Grad Teaching Fellows must register for G6500 (Supervised Teaching)







This page is maintained by Andres Torres and Lois Putnam.

It was last modified by lep1 on January 19, 2012 .