About the Handbook
The handbook is now in its fifth edition. In the ten years since this manual became the first Teaching Assistant (TA) resource provided by the Center For Teaching, the roles of TAs at the University have continued to evolve. We wish to thank our readers, both students and faculty, for providing us with feedback to help us keep the handbook developing along with the campus. We will continue to incorporate suggestions into future editions of the handbook with the goal of creating a resource which addresses the changing realities and concerns of teaching assistants in a variety of settings.
The role of teaching assistant is likely to be a part of the educational experience of many graduate students during some part of their professional training. The teaching assistant's role as an instructor is a somewhat unusual one since few TAs receive any formal training in the skills of teaching. It is often assumed that graduate students will make good teachers simply because they have achieved a certain level of expertise in their chosen fields. However, it cannot be assumed that the possession of knowledge of a particular discipline provides any guarantee of an ability to transmit it to others. Beginning TAs often speak of their initial frustration with teaching because of their inability to communicate to students the information and enthusiasm they themselves have accumulated over numerous years of study. One of the tasks of the new TA, then, is to learn to translate the language of a discipline to students in a way which makes it both accessible and meaningful.
This handbook has been put together with the goal of helping new teaching assistants in the process of becoming competent university instructors. The TA experience may be the only opportunity graduate students have to prepare for their future careers as college teachers. It is an apprenticeship of sorts. In compiling this handbook we have drawn upon the information and guidance provided in the TA handbooks of a number of other colleges and universities, and in so doing we hope to have included the best of the existing literature designed to help TAs with the tasks of teaching, advising, and evaluating students, and with juggling the various expectations of graduate student life.
It should be noted that this handbook addresses teaching development. For information on your department or the University's policies governing teaching assistantships such as the terms of employment, conditions for reappointment, stipends, etc., please consult with your department.
If you have any comments or suggestions for improving this handbook please feel free to contact us.