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G R A D U A T E   T E A C H I N G   A S S I S T A N T

2011 Survey of GTA Orientation and Ongoing Development Activities

R e p o r t


Section A. Background

Section B. Analysis of Departmental Orientation Activities Before or During Furst Semester as GTA

Section C. Evaluation of Ongoing Development Activities After First Semester as GTA

Section D. Evaluation of Planned Changes by Departments


Overview of Responding Departments and Their GTAs

The survey had a 91% response rate.  Forty-one of UA’s departments with Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) completed the “2011 Survey of GTA Orientation and Ongoing Development Activities.”  Responding departments collectively accounted for 380 master’s level GTAs and 373 doctoral level GTAs, for a total of 753.  The number of GTAs covered by the survey represents 94% of the University’s 0.50 FTE GTAs.

GTA Coordinators Who Completed the Survey

Nearly all respondents reported spending 1-5 hours per week in their roles as GTA Coordinators.  Their most frequently mentioned functions include the following:

  • develop course syllabi and common exams for GTAs to use
  • assist GTAs in developing their syllabi
  • coordinate lab instructor assignments and instruction
  • organize annual GTA Colloquium
  • assign duties to GTAs
  • assign each GTA to a faculty mentor or supervisor
  • monitor GTA performance
  • coordinate the review and assessment of GTA efforts
  • train and equip GTAs to be able to lead performance labs effectively
  • receive and process all paperwork necessary for hiring GTAs
  • act as liaison between the Graduate School and the Department
  • gather evaluations from supervising faculty
  • receive (from all grad students, including GTAs) proof of sexual harassment training,
  • plagiarism understanding, FERPA understanding, and non-medical IRB training


GTAs Responsible for Classroom Instruction or Assistance


Percentage Yes

Do your GTAs normally take a course in teaching methods before they teach?


If they take such a course, is the course required?


Do you require teaching experience before your GTAs teach?


Do you require your GTAs to work as in-class assistants before they teach?


Does each GTA have a mentor either assigned by the department or chosen by the GTA?


Does your department provide workshops/seminars?


Instructional videos about teaching?


Prior syllabi?


Instruction on syllabus construction?


Departmental handouts?


Teaching handbook or manual?


Lectures on teaching by department?


Instruction on how to teach using technology?


Evaluation of practice teaching?


Does your department require or offer  “other activities” before or during first semester as GTA?  (descriptions below)



GTAs Responsible for Classroom Instruction or Assistance:  “Other Activities“ Departments Use to Prepare GTAs Before or During First Semester as GTA

All GTAs work with the course coordinator/experienced instructor

Classroom observation

Students practice-teach in classes they are assisting.

Our GTAs only grade homework. All teaching done by faculty.

GAANN-related professional development seminars cover many of the listed aspects of instruction and are open to all graduate students.

Teach one section of a multi-section, coordinated course

Intensive summer orientation workshops; working with students as Writing Center Tutors in the year prior to teaching in the classroom. We also have an extensive teaching handbook available to GTAs.

GTAs usually meet with their supervising faculty before classes begin and then meet at least once per week to discuss and devise a lesson plan.

Varies based on teaching assignment; they meet frequently with their mentor

Most students will assist with a class before serving as a course instructor. The faculty mentor will share syllabi and other course materials with the GTA instructor and meet with them periodically throughout the semester.

Students without prior teaching experience (which is most GTAs) are required to serve at least one semester as a "writing mentor" helping in our main intro to writing course.

GTAs also observe and discuss teaching they witness before becoming instructors of record.

GTAs in music education all have an undergraduate degree in teaching, which includes field work. Depending on their responsibilities, they are directly supervised and coached by faculty.

Mentors work with GTAs on syllabus advice, any issues that arise, etc.

Encourage them to attend workshops given by Graduate School. Joint mentoring by the PhD program chair and the BSW program chair and access to the assistant dean.

GTA workshop provided by the Graduate School

Required or Optional Departmental Courses to Prepare GTAs to Teach


Course Required?


Credit Hours

American Studies


AMS 588 Teaching Internship


Biological Sciences


BSC 695 TAP Special Topics


Communication (CIS), General


CIS 601 Proseminar in Pedagogy


Communication Studies


COM 501 Introduction to Teaching Public Speaking


Edu. Studies in Psych, Research Methodology & Counseling


BEP 672  Teaching Educational Psychology in College




EN 533 and EN 534 (Practicum in Teaching College English) concurrent with teaching


Gender and Race Studies


WS 503 Teaching Gender and Race




HY 600 Teaching History




MATH 591 Teaching College Math


Modern Languages and Classics


GN 514 Teaching Methodology (previously GN 551)


Music Education


MUS 531 College Teaching:  Music Education




PY 695 Teaching of Psychology


Social Work


SW 605 Social Work Education


Special Education & Multiple Abilities


Depends upon area of Special Education


GTAs Responsible for Labs, Discussion Sections or Similar Instruction or Supervision

GTAs Responsible for Labs, Discussion Sections or Similar Instruction or Supervision

Do you have lab/discussion GTAs?



Do your lab/discussion GTAs take a class in how to lead a lab, discussion or similar type of session?


Do your lab/discussion GTAs have a supervisor evaluate them while assisting with their labs or discussion sections?


Do you require your GTA lab supervisors to assist in labs before they are responsible for leading one?


“Other activities” for lab/discussion GTAs (descriptions below)


GTAs Responsible for Labs, Discussion Sections or Similar Instruction or Supervision: “Other Activities” Departments Use to Prepare GTAs

Lab instructors sit in lecture class

Most of our GTAs are our own graduates and they have taken the course (and lab) as undergraduates. They are familiar with lab procedures. The teacher of record provides additional training for new software and in the infrequent cases when the GTA is not one of our own graduates.

They shadow an instructor

GTAs who lead large discussion sections attend orientation workshops prior to teaching

A workshop is held by the GTA coordinator at the start of each academic year.

Grad School GTA workshop (breakout session for lab/discussion section GTAs)

GTAs are observed conducting discussion approximately twice per semester.

Given training booklet for lab activities and safety training; senior lab TA helps new lab TAs

GTAS who are assigned to the (computer) lab assist in maintaining hardware, software and the network; they open and close the lab under supervision of the Manager of Area Computing.

The lab person does not assist with instruction, only with equipment, taking roll, and inventory management.

Our nonteaching GTAs are assigned to a professor, and their duties may include proctoring exams, assisting with grading, conducting a review session, or occasionally giving a lecture if a prof is unavailable. Each professor/supervisor gives the appropriate guidance to their GTA in order that they are prepared to perform these activities. This experience with assisting a professor with teaching duties is considered part of their preparation for later teaching their own section.



Analysis of Ongoing Development Activities After First Semester as GTA

Types of GTA Evaluations Used in Departments

Percentage Yes









Videotaping in classroom, lab, discussion, etc.


“Other” Types of Evaluations used? (descriptions below)



Descriptions of “Other” Types of GTA Evaluation Methods Reported by Departments

Student input is sought by the teacher during the lecture part of the course.  In the last 10 years we have had maybe two instances where the GTA had to be cautioned about his/her performance in the lab.

Classroom observation and student evaluation

Mentor groups; peer teaching observations; faculty mentor teaching observations; self-assessment based on SOIs; and mentor conferences

The written evaluation includes observing GTAs teach. Student evaluations are also administered once each semester

During weekly meetings with supervising faculty, GTAs discuss the effectiveness of the previous week’s discussion, as well as how to address any problems they encountered.

Formal written, once per academic year.

GTAs are usually observed by a faculty mentor at least once during the semester.

The Language Program Director regularly meets with all GTAs to discuss practical and theoretical issues of teaching.   It is further supplemented by peer observations which the GTAs have with one another, both written and discussed.

Program Chair will hold a meeting with the GTA and other relevant parties if issues arise.  Informal discussions/interviews may occur more than twice a semester if either the GTA or the chair perceives a need.

Selected Comments on the Effectiveness of Current Evaluation Methods

Selected Comments on the Effectiveness of Current Evaluation Methods

At least twice in each semester, it has been effective for the departmental graduate director to confer with each teacher of record regarding the performance of the GTA who assists with the class

We incorporate student evaluations and course coordinator assessments. Based on what we learn from these, we determine whether or not we will use the GTA again. We find our evaluation methods to be effective.

We find written evaluations to be quite adequate in revealing potential problems and documenting them.

It would be better for us to formalize the process.  Right now, evaluations are informal and are not regularly scheduled.

Our comprehensive evaluation methods (formal, written evaluations and informal discussions of teaching strengths and areas for improvement) are providing direct, real-time feedback to the GTAs. We are further enhancing our evaluation methods this coming academic year.

We have no formal evaluation of grading effectiveness.

We have great effectiveness with our doctoral students teaching. We continue to recommend them as outstanding teachers for University awards.

Very effective.  We have seen improvements made in teaching performance by GTAs from one semester to the next, based on evaluative feedback (formal evaluations each semester and videotaping the GTAs in class)

Done by the faculty associated with that course as opposed to centrally in the department

The more hands-on our input and supportive our evaluations, the better the teaching performance by our GTAs.

Highly effective.  Students are given an evaluation form, faculty members evaluate each of their GTA mentees, and faculty meet as a group to discuss progress of each GTA.  Each GTA receives written and oral feedback.

Formal written evaluation (by instructor and by students) generally sheds light on problem areas, while informal discussions get at the nuances of the challenges or questions GTAs have.

Evaluation is to determine whether GTAs are performing according to expectations and therefore benefiting the department.  Unsatisfactory evaluation precludes further funding.  An unsatisfactory evaluation is extremely rare.

Note that there are two different evaluation methods.  Non-teaching GTAs (fewer than 18 hrs.) have their supervisors fill out an evaluation form, which has both closed and open-ended questions.  If problems are revealed on these evaluations, then the DGS will meet with the GTA and discuss the situation.  GTAs that have completed 18 or more graduate semester hours and are teaching their own sections are observed in the classroom by their mentors. The mentors write a formal evaluation, share this with the student, and discuss any issues there might be. In theory, if there were ever any major problems raised in these evaluations, then either the DGS or the Chair might talk to the student—but this has never happened to my knowledge.

We believe our evaluation methods (e.g., formal written evaluations; evaluation during course work on teaching; and evaluation of practice teaching) are effective, as they do identify both superior GTAs and those who tend to pose problems over time. 

Descriptions of “Other” Ways That Departments Enhance GTA Development after the Initial Orientation

Descriptions of “Other” Ways That Departments Enhance GTA Development after the Initial Orientation and First Semester as GTA

GAANN-related professional development seminars cover many aspects of instruction and are open to all graduate students.

We give GTAs the opportunity to work with several different faculty supervisors and to observe and participate in a variety of teaching styles.

Writing mentor program

GTAs encouraged to go to conferences

It is my understanding that UA’s Center for Academic Success (Center for Teaching and Learning) provides a number of opportunities such as this.

We have faculty/PhD student "exchanges," approximately once a month, which sometimes address teaching (more often, research, however).



Analysis of Planned Changes by Departments


Percentage Yes

Are you considering any changes for the immediate future to assist your GTAs?


Changes being considered:


Require a course on teaching


Provide an optional course on teaching


More class visits by faculty and/or veteran GTAs


Develop Teaching Evaluations


Expand Teaching Evaluations


Videotape GTAs


Increase Mentoring/Supervision


Refine Mentorship Process


Team Teaching


Rotate Faculty Member(s) in Charge


More Meetings with GTAs


Colloquia or Seminars on Teaching


Develop a Handbook or Manual for GTAs


Develop a Task Force or Committee to Address GTA Issues


“Other” Planned Changes (descriptions below)

Other Types of Changes That Departments are Planning

Descriptions of “Other” Types of Changes That Departments are Planning


More formal meetings to allow GTAs the opportunity to engage in problem-solving discussions with veteran GTAs

We need to develop evaluation rubrics useful for many purposes.

We see the need for more observations and more contact with mentors and peers

More organized discussions combining new GTAs and experienced GTAs on teaching strategies.

Our current process for mentoring of GTAs by faculty is very informal and will be made more formal.

We have hired a new faculty member who will coordinate our basic degree program and have time to do more mentoring/evaluating. Previously, department head had these duties.

We have a need to better match GTAs with faculty members.

We have not paid close enough attention to the performance of our GTAs over the past few years. Based on trends in teaching evaluations, we are working to improve the performance of our GTAs

Improve GTAs’ teaching skills and handling of classes

Advances in teaching technology quickly arise.  More observations by faculty aside from the Language Program Director could be appropriate and beneficial. Under discussion.

I give GTAs the opportunity to work with several different supervising faculty to observe and participate in a variety of teaching styles

Additional Services Departments Would Like to See UA Provide to Support GTAs

Additional Services Departments Would Like to See UA Provide to Support GTAs

Additional financial support to bridge the gap for international students between an assistantship and what is required financially in order to issue an I-94. The departments currently have to use GTA funds to bridge this gap, which results in fewer students that we can support.

Classroom observation and feedback on teaching

In addition to the Graduate School’s Graduate Assistant Guide, I would like to see the University develop a training manual for GTAs. Many issues that GTAs face (time management, plagiarism, grading etc.,) are campus-wide.

We would like to be able to bring new GTAs in earlier (Aug 1) in order to have time for more extensive training

More funding for more GTAs to keep up with the University’s growing number of courses, due to steady enrollment increases.

We are satisfied with the services currently provided.

Workshops on teaching undergraduates

None necessary, given our population of ex-teachers.

I would like to see the opportunity for GTAs to attend occasional University workshops

The problem with University programs is that teaching at the GTA level is fairly discipline specific. Mostly we just need more hours in the day to talk about teaching.

Additional courses or workshops on teaching for graduate students might be helpful—especially if they are organized by individual colleges, so they can be customized to the nature of the instructional material.

The Grad School’s Workshop for New GTAs is helpful -- other workshops on aspects of teaching such as dealing with problem students, or helping students feel engaged would help.

We need ALL classrooms equipped with multimedia. We are training GTAs to use technology to teach the language, because most textbooks nowadays are set that way and because it is of the utmost importance for their professional development in order to secure a position once they graduate. It will give them an edge.  Most classrooms that GTAs teach in don't even have an overhead projector... it is just counterproductive.

Continue the good benefits package for GTAs

Perhaps some sort of regular discussion groups, where GTAs might discuss common issues. I think there is plenty of informal discussion among our own GTAs, but they might benefit from a broader perspective.

Encouragement to the GTAs to seek advice more often from their mentors.

General Comments On Any Aspect of the Survey 

General Comments On Any Aspect of the Survey

Much of this is not relevant to our department—we use our GTAs only to grade homework.  All classes are taught by faculty in our department; GTAs only assist faculty.

There seems to be an emphasis in this questionnaire on GTAs being expected to take formal courses in pedagogy.  Our GTAs are already busy enough without this—so this concerns me. Occasional seminars might be OK.

GTA development would be greatly enhanced with the hire of a specialist in foreign language teaching and learning technology. We previously had such a professional in the Language Resource Center, but that was about half a decade ago. This disadvantages our GTAs.



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