The Graduate School Delivers TA Training On-Demand!

Remember that pop quiz you gave in class last Friday? Your students bombed it. All of them. Now it's Monday, and when you return the quizzes and dive into your lesson plan for today's class, you quickly realize you've made a mistake. The roomful of students are passing quizzes back and forth, comparing answers, and definitely not listening to what you're teaching. "Wow," you think. "I've got to do something differently in the next section. But it's in an hour! How can I change my teaching in an hour?!"

If you've ever been a Teaching Assistant, you've been there. And now there's help.

As part of the Graduate School's Preparing Future Leaders initiative, Ms. Sarah Egan-Warren and Ms. Sarah Glova, both faculty in the Professional Writing Department, launched TA tv this past August. TA tv stands for "Teaching Assistant Training Videos." In these 5-10 minute instructional videos, viewers learn from experienced TAs. They address a variety of issues including techniques for classroom management and setting the tone on the first day of class. These videos are not just for instructors of record, either. Egan-Warren explains, "Whether a TA is grading, assisting, or teaching an entire course, TA tv can help."

Under the leadership of Dr. Barbi Honeycutt, Director of Graduate Teaching Programs, TA tv has become NC State's newest on-demand resource for teaching assistants. The videos are also available to others on campus who are interested in learning more about teaching and learning in the college classroom. Honeycutt explains, "The idea for TA tv came directly from Sarah Glova and Sarah Egan-Warren this summer, and we first unveiled it during the New Graduate Student Orientation in August. These two faculty members are so creative and innovative, and I believe TA tv is our next step in transforming the way we think about TA training programs. I can see departmental training programs using this resource as part of their own orientation programs so they don't have to reinvent the wheel each year. I'm very excited and looking forward to seeing where TA tv will go."

TA tv benefits from the experience of veteran TAs representing many departments across NC State. The graduate students who contribute to TA tv have been "in the trenches" and share real stories and experiences to help other TAs avoid pitfalls so they can excel in the classroom. Glova points out that TA tv is "by TAs, for TAs. It's not talking at you; TA tv is with you, talking about real situations with real TAs."

And, Glova adds, TA tv is with you when you need it: "We know what it's like to juggle grading, teaching, emails. . .not to mention your own responsibilities as a student! So we focused on creating something that TAs can access when they have time." The videos are available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Egan-Warren calls this constant access "just in time learning" for TAs. She explains that if you are looking for more in-depth information on a TA tv topic, you can register and attend a FIT workshop. FIT stands for "Fundamentals in Teaching" and the workshops include topics focused on learning styles, assessment, writing learning outcomes, classroom management, how to ask effective questions, and many more topics that enhance the classroom experience for both the students and the instructors. All of these workshops are linked from the TA tv web site.

The idea for TA tv was born from two colleagues' shared experience and passion for teaching. Sarah Egan-Warren and Sarah Glova (who call themselves "The Two Sarahs") have carefully thought about what makes a TA successful. Both served as TAs at NC State, and they have been involved with the Graduate School's Preparing Future Leaders initiative through FIT workshops, the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT) program, and the New TA Orientation. Glova is an alumna of these programs, and Egan-Warren is a faculty mentor for graduate student involved in these programs. In fact, Egan-Warren was Glova's TA mentor for the CoAT program, a relationship that kick-started many collaborations, among them TA tv.

Despite sharing a name, an academic background, and a similar sense of humor, The Two Sarahs say they bring different talents to their TA tv project. Says Egan-Warren, "Sarah G has a knack for technology—she makes everything seem so easy and straightforward." Says Glova, "Sarah [E-W] is really creative. That's one of the reasons working with her is so great." The off-screen friendship between The Two Sarahs fuels their chemistry on camera, where they co-host TA tv, introducing topics and TA participants. "Someday we will have to release an 'outakes' video," says Egan-Warren. "We work hard and laugh harder!"

But these two have bigger plans for TA tv than just a bloopers reel: TA tv will soon add a blog, contests for innovative teaching techniques, and further research and theoretical resources. Egan-Warren says that after posting the initial training videos, she and Sarah G "gathered feedback from the hundreds of TAs who have already viewed this resource." The Two Sarahs have responded to that feedback by expanding TA tv, and they want to keep that dialogue with their graduate student audience going.

This is where TA tv needs your help. Says Glova, "There are so many great TAs at NC State, and we want to hear their stories!" Egan-Warren points out the feedback page on the TA tv web site and says they would like your ideas on the existing videos, as well as suggestions for future episode topics and any TA experiences you would like to share.

The Two Sarahs hope that TA tv will provide a rich and easily accessible resource for TAs at NC State and other universities as well. Go check it out!

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