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Helpful hints about Teaching Assistantships in Earth Sciences

Helpful Hints for Teaching Assistantships in Earth Sciences

Helpful hints, who to know and other resoursces for TA’s in the Department of Earth Sciences


Teaching Assistantships in Earth Sciences


The passing of knowledge is an essential part of the progression of science.

TAships allow you to develop your teaching skills and your knowledge base. Teaching can be as rewarding as it is intimidating; to ease the stress and help broaden your skills.

Here are helpful hints, who to know and other resources.


When you start your degree here:


1) Fill out the ‘Teaching Assistant Aptitudes Info Sheet’ (see binder or ask Undergrad Chair) and give it to the Undergraduate Chair.

2) Talk to the TA Coordinator & Lynn Slotkin to work out the paperwork (e.g. TA contract, finances).

3) Talk to a senior TA if you would like to sit in on their lab to see how they work. I


Once you have a TA position:


4) Meet with the professor teaching the course:

Once before the course starts in order to define your responsibilities for the course.

Dividing the work for large courses with multiple TAs is essential.

Once around the midterm to get all TAs on the same page &

to get hints to improve the course &

to make sure you will not go over your contract hours.

Once at the end of the course to get feedback from students &

professor on how you can improve &

to allow suggestions on how the course/TAship can be improved.

5) Keep track of hours workedDON’T WORK FOR FREE!!! Think ahead so you don’t go over.

6) Ask for a Textbook (professors can get review copies free! Make sure you have one to borrow at least!)

7) Ask for feedback at the end of semester on how to improve (see binder for survey).


If there is a conflict of interest or problem:


8) If you don’t feel comfortable with TAing, ask your professor if you can sit in on the course lecture. This may help you learn how to teach, present material & interact with students and connect   the topics/content you are presenting in the lab sessions.

9) If you TA for your supervisor and you are being asked to work beyond your TA contract obligations (eg. ask you to work  more hours or do work above and beyond your contractthen talk to fellow TAs, the Undergraduate Chair, the Graduate Chair or the Dept. Chair to help you resolve the problem with the least conflict possible.

10) If you do not have office hours let students know about the Help Centre.


When Marking or Grading:


11) Talk to the professor about grading expectations.

12) Follow a rubric or marking guide. Ask the professor or previous TAs for their assignment rubrics.

13) Be consistent! Make sure you mark all material equally.

14) When giving feedback focus on a few main points that are helpful to the student in each exercise. Try to give constructive criticism (do not just identify faults).


For more Questions about:


            a) Course content   = ask the professor.

            b) Teaching methods (pedagogy) = look into the Teaching Assistant Training Program                                                (TATP)           www.teaching.utoronto.ca/gsta/training/tatp.htm

            c) Language & Writing assistance = English Language and Writing Support (ELWS)


            d) General info on any issues = the Help Centre TAs are there for discussion, and

            other grad students – we’ve been in your position before!


Resource Binder


binder, the Teaching Assistant Guide, of  material on all of the above topics for you to use anytime. One copy will be at the Help Centre and another in the Main Office with advice, resource info, CUPE union info, University Policy info, practical geology teaching issues and much more.


People To Know:


Undergraduate Chair / TA Coordinator – Charly Bank   Rm 2107    undergradchair@es.utoronto.ca

Graduate Chair –                    Ed Spooner                 Rm 4112          gradchair@es.utoronto.ca  

Dept. Chair –                          Russ Pysklywec     Main Office    chair@es.utoronto.ca

Graduate / Undergrad Administrator – Lynn Slotkin  Main Office   slotkin@es.utoronto.ca


Digital Media (AV equipment) – Karyn Gorra                                   kgorra@es.utoronto.ca

Writing Services at U of T                                                                  www.writing.utoronto.ca


Association of Geology Graduate Students (AGGS) President – Katrina van Drongelen