Importance of TAs to Science Education

Posted on November 22, 2005  Comments (0)

TA”™s as the Key to Science Teaching via Confessions of a Science Librarian:

In 1997, Elaine Seymour was one of the authors of Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. She found that a reason cited by student after student ”” at a range of institutions ”” was poor teaching. And at many institutions, teaching assistants were a major part of the problem.

What should colleges be doing to help teaching assistants? Seymour offers several strategies that are discussed in her book:

  • Creating semester-length courses that teach pedagogy. “You have to show them how to do it.”
  • Involving science faculty members demonstrating techniques of teaching so that the pedagogy is not just theoretical.
  • Scheduling regular meetings ”” at least once a week ”” for teaching assistants to talk about how their sections are going and the issues that are coming up. “You have to troubleshoot,” she says.
  • Providing support for teaching, so that TA”™s dissertation committees and advisers know that their teaching duties should be taken seriously.

These ideas are very important.

Also see, Teaching Quality Improvement by Quality Improvement in Teaching by Ian Hau. This paper describes how students and the instructor worked as a team to improve the quality of teaching in a class.

New book by Elaine Seymour due out in January- Partners in Innovation: Teaching Assistants in College Science Courses.

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