“The teaching assistant is a wonderful bridge between student and instructor…” (Svinicki, 1993)
Teaching assistants (seminar leaders, lab demonstrators and markers) are one
of Brock University’s most valuable resources. TAs are the front line
representatives for the university and it is their patience, dedication and
hard work that makes such a difference for so many first and second year students.
Brock’s seminar system, almost unique among universities, affords students
the opportunity to meet with peers to challenge each other and share in their
learning experiences. The TAs make it possible for faculty to teach large classes
yet still stay in touch with the students, be aware of class responses to the
material presented and the difficulties being encountered. For students just
entering their first year, the TAs can make the difference between a student
feeling isolated to feeling welcomed, understood and encouraged.
Brock students, in turn, are fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as seminar leaders, particularly those who are in their senior years and who in other universities, would not be able to lead seminars or labs unless in graduate school. The experience is extremely rewarding for those who dedicate themselves to the task and who embrace the experience knowing they will learn they teach.
As with any job, professional development is a fine balance between experience and continued learning. In addition to this guide, there are many resources available to Brock TAs (see the section on Resources). Of particular importance, however, is the TA Training workshop series which is designed specifically to meet the needs of TAs at Brock. Participation in eight workshops offered throughout the year (on topics such as evaluation, marking papers, leading effective seminars or labs, promoting diversity, etc) earns a certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Participation in sixteen workshops earns an Advanced certificate. The workshops provide a forum for TAs to come together, discuss common challenges and triumphs and learn from each other’s experiences.
This manual is for TAs who are interested in developing their skills as teachers and mentors.
The CTLET wishes to acknowledge the contributions of all individuals, faculty, staff and TAs who have contributed valuable resources and information for all editions of this guide. Many thanks to Lindsay Scott for researching, compiling, and writing this latest iteration.