I had the opportunity to attend the Center for Teaching Event “Working Well with TAs” last week. It was the first in a series of workshops on teaching large classes. Linguistics professor John McCarthy and his teaching assistants Wendell Kimper and Kathryn Pruitt discussed the strategies they use in Linguistics 101, a large lecture, general education course. They shared a great deal of advice they have compiled into a handbook for future teaching assistants that addresses a spectrum of topics ranging from how to stay organized and how to lead discussion sections to what to wear (!). The Center for Teaching has the PDF of the complete handbook posted online.
On the technology side, Professor McCarthy discussed his use of several SPARK features that he finds useful for keeping a 300-person class with regular assignments running smoothly. Students regularly submit writing assignments via SPARK. The teaching assistants then grade and provide feedback using the Grading Form tool in SPARK. The idea is that using grading forms will provide consistency of grading between teaching assistants. Said McCarthy: “grading forms gave uniformity of grading and saved time for TAs. They can even repeat comments when appropriate by copy/pasting.” Grades from these assignments, as well as in class exams are recorded in the SPARK Grade Book.
This was an interesting and useful event. Make sure to check out the Center for Teaching’s schedule for the other upcoming workshops this Spring.