Outline for Spring 2013 TA Orientation

1:10 PM Friday January 25, 2013

200c Schermerhorn Hall

Grad TAs, before the term begins you need to assist the prof. with New Courseworks setup. It's also your job to master the classroom equipment to insure a smooth start to the first class meeting.

All TAs, grad and undergrad, should read the TA Manual, the Special Privileges page, and this Orientation 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-evaluation; student evaluation

III. Your responsibilities as a TA (also see Grad TA 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: two 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:

• New CourseWorks access and training
• Desk copies of books used in course
• Library: extended loan period without fines
• Access to electronic classrooms
• Access to 200 b/c
• Photocopies of course materials
• Computing: more memory, printing allowance

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
        (Lindemann, Sparrow, Mobbs, Hart, Hood)
      • 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
      • paid tutoring: not for students in the course you're TAing for.
      • consensual romantic or sexual relationships with students are prohibited. Read the new CU policy and Guidelines for Psychology TAs.

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 or Andres Torres 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 or Maria D. Dilbert mdd2@columbia.edu.
  • Copying handouts, exams, and transparencies (see Winnie/Maria/Joanna)
    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 New CourseWorks in your teaching

  • New CourseWorks
    • Ask prof to set up access for you
    • Read online documentation
    • Take a CCNMTL workshop
    • Practice on G6500 site
    • Uses of New CourseWorks are many and varied
      • posting announcements and due dates on home page
      • posting articles and lecture slides
      • posting, gathering, and grading assignments
      • uploading grades from excel; downloading grades to excel spreadsheet
      • email and discussion boards
      • chat rooms and virtual office hours
      • Test & Quiz section for mid-term feedback on your TAing
    • linking course syllabi to dept web pages
      • psych syllabi are linked to Dir of Classes and dept curriculum materials
      • send Andres Torres word or pdf files of new course syllabus to post

VIII. Classrooms

  • Reporting classroom problems
    • Electronic Classroom Problems
    • Routine maintenance problems: report them to classrooms@columbia.edu and to Joanna
    • 200b/c problems: report them to Peter Tripp, to Lois, and to the lab TA or lab assistant on duty.
  • 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:
    • 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 update this after installing new Macs for fall 2012]
    • 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 aft2109 on January 22, 2013 .