Lab Assistants

Communicating as a Lab TA

Submitted by mnestel on August 22, 2015 - 7:26pm

Clear communication between the teacher and students is essential in any teaching position, but when you are a Lab TA or TA for a Professor you also need to effectively communicate with professors and other TAs. See below for one Lab TA’s experience navigating multiple types of communication during their first semester.


Engaging Students in the Lab

Submitted by mnestel on January 11, 2015 - 1:11am

Read one TA's thoughts on and strategies for engaging students in the lab. (A lot of these tips are great for other classroom scenarios in addition to labs!)

Teaching is not about putting in efforts in preparing every lecture or a lab session. All that matters is engaging the students in the class. Once you manage to get their attention, everything else just falls in place.

Dressing the Part

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 11:28am

How you choose to dress on the first day is determined largely by how you wish to present yourself to your students. You can present authority, be relaxed, or find a median point between the two. For the first day, many experienced TAs recommend dressing professionally. Your students will be expecting this, and through years of conditioning will naturally defer to your authority and presumed expertise so as long as you perform the role of instructor in accordance with their expectations.

Choosing Your Props

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:58am
The tools you use to transport materials to and from the classroom as well as the supplies you use when interacting with your students can influence their appreciation of your role as the instructor. While some TAs are not particularly concerned with the supplies they use in class, others are concerned carrying a backpack might make them seem the same age as their students (often especially a concern for younger TAs). If you are looking for another way to enhance your professional appearance and subtly establish authority, you might consider the following supply suggestions from a TA.

What's in a Name?

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:52am

Deciding what your students should call you can be difficult. Below, we've listed the options and common thoughts on/concerns about these choices. Ultimately, go with what makes you feel most comfortable.

Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last Name

Many TAs ask their students to call them by their last name. This formal approach can help foster respect in the classroom, and often times younger TAs appreciate it as a tool for setting boundaries between themselves and their students.

Location, Location

Submitted by jfishe10 on May 28, 2014 - 10:28am

Believe it or not, the way an instructor occupies a classroom space sends volumes of unconsciously received communication to students. Thoughtfully locating oneself within the room is a great tool for encouraging specific kinds of student behavior. For example, instructors often lecture while standing in front of a projector screen or white board, and sometimes become so comfortable there that they rarely shift position. To change things up, try walking between student desks or around the back of the room as you talk.