Teaching assistant

Teaching assistant

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A teaching assistant (TA) is an individual who assists a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 or teacher
Teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

 with instructional responsibilities. TAs include graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), who are graduate
Graduate school
A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees with the general requirement that students must have earned a previous undergraduate degree...

 students; undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs), who are undergraduate students; secondary school TAs, who are either high school students or adults; and elementary school TAs, who are adults (also known as paraprofessional educator
Paraprofessional educator
A paraprofessional educator, alternatively known as a para-pro, paraeducator. instructional assistant, teacher's aide or classroom assistant, is a teaching-related position within a school generally responsible for specialized or concentrated assistance for students in elementary and secondary...

s or teacher's aides). By definition, TAs assist with classes, but many graduate students serve as the sole instructor for one or more classes each semester as a teaching fellow
Teaching fellow
A teaching fellow is a particular teaching role at some universities.-United States:In the USA a teaching fellow is an advanced graduate student who serves as the primary instructor for an undergraduate course...

 or graduate student instructor. Graduate and adult TAs generally have a fixed salary determined by each contract period (usually a semester or an academic year); however, undergraduates and high school students are sometimes unpaid and, in the US and other countries with the credit system, receive course credits in return for their assistance.

Graduate teaching assistants


Graduate teaching assistants (often referred to as GTAs or simply TAs) are graduate students employed on a temporary contract by a department at a college
College
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

 or university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 in teaching-related responsibilities. In New Zealand, Australian, and some Canadian universities, graduate TAs are known as tutor
Tutor
A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor is to perform the functions of a tutor.-Teaching assistance:...

s. North American graduate TA positions provide funding for postgraduate research - although the main purpose is to provide teaching support - and it often serves as a first career step for aspiring academics. TA responsibilities vary greatly and may include: tutoring; holding office hours; invigilating tests or exams; and assisting a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 with a large lecture class by teaching student
Student
A student is a learner, or someone who attends an educational institution. In some nations, the English term is reserved for those who attend university, while a schoolchild under the age of eighteen is called a pupil in English...

s in recitation
Recitation
A recitation is a presentation made by a student to demonstrate knowledge of a subject or to provide instruction to others. In some academic institutions the term is used for a presentation by a teaching assistant or instructor, under the guidance of a senior faculty member, that supplements...

, laboratory, or discussion sessions. Professors may also use their teaching assistants to help teach discussions during regular class. This gives the graduate student opportunity to use their teaching skills, as many are in pursuit of teaching careers. Some graduate students assist in distance education
Distance education
Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom...

 courses by meeting with the students as professors are not able to. Graduate TAs should not be confused with teaching fellow
Teaching fellow
A teaching fellow is a particular teaching role at some universities.-United States:In the USA a teaching fellow is an advanced graduate student who serves as the primary instructor for an undergraduate course...

s (TFs) or graduate student instructors (GSIs), who are graduate students who serve as the primary instructor for a course. However, at some universities the TF and TA titles are used interchangeably.They can also help with first aid.

GTA training


Training in Northern America is provided for GTAs to bring them to an agreed standard of proficiency by practice and instruction. Many universities have developed GTA training programs, or require GTAs to enroll in a University course, teaching graduate students that teaching can be learned, practiced, and continually improved. These programs or courses are usually taught by a full-time professional trainers, such as professors or experienced teachers, to inspire and motivate GTAs as well as educating them. In the training a lot of attention has been focused on the use of active learning strategies such as in-class activities and written assignments. Effective training helps GTAs enhance the learning experience for both teacher and student. A study conducted at the University of California showed that GTAs who completed a training workshop had increased self-efficacy
Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.It has been defined as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain set of goals. It is believed that our personalized ideas of self-efficacy affect...

. Training courses helped them feel more confident in their ability to confront the challenges associated with teaching at the collegiate level. Specifically, training increased GTA self efficacy in three instructional areas: classroom management, student involvement, and instructional strategies. Young and Bippus suggest that an effective GTA training course needs to be based in both theory and practice to address the most relevant concerns for new GTAs. They recommend surveying incoming GTAs to find out their specific instructional concerns and to tailor the training program to boost self efficacy in areas where the GTAs feel they need help. Further, they suggest that effective training programs consist of a variety of techniques to enhance GTA self efficacy, ranging from lectures and discussions to group work and role plays. Finally, they recommend that a variety of staff be involved in the training process so that GTAs know they have the support of institutional faculty as they teach. Training to develop GTA self efficacy is important because teachers who have confidence in their abilities are more dedicated to their teaching efforts and to the success of their students.

In general, the same tactics and strategies used by teachers are important for GTAs. According to Hal Urban, author of Lessons from the Classroom, all good teachers share one special quality, enthusiasm. It is important for teachers to have fun while working hard. Having a passion and enthusiasm for a subject matter will increase the odds of teaching effectively and having cooperative students every time you do. That mean, don't count on enthusiasm to cover everything you need to teach a class, but it certainly helps. Teachers with passion and enthusiasm inspire students. By getting them interested and even excited about what they are learning the students will be more likely to be motivated to learn the material and it will increase retention.

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants


UTAs usually serve as true assistants to a class; they typically have taken the course with which they are assisting, often with the same professor, and have performed well in it. This case is less common for GTAs, since many would have been undergraduates at other institutions. Unlike professors and GTAs, UTAs generally do not have a fixed salary but instead are paid by the hour, earn credit hours, or volunteer their time.

High School Teaching Assistants


The term teaching assistant is used in the high school and middle school setting for students or adults that assist a teacher with one or more classes. The responsibilities, situations, and conditions of these individuals' involvement differ from those in higher education. A less formal position, a TA job in secondary education
Secondary education
Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university...

 is generally determined by the supervising teacher. Common tasks include assisting students with their work, and taking attendance. Most of the responsibilities of Teaching Assistants do not require the academic expertise of the professor in charge. Some teaching assistants at this level may teach portions of the class lessons, or teach lessons to small groups of students who need extra instruction. Many TAs work "one-on-one" with special needs students; these TAs shadow their student and assist with classwork, organization, and behavior management. In some parts of the United States it is customary or even required that each classroom have one certified teacher and one or more co-teachers or teaching assistants.

Elementary School Teaching Assistants


An elementary school
Elementary school
An elementary school or primary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America, where the terms grade school and grammar...

 teaching assistant is an adult who is hired to help a teacher
Teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

 with class-related duties, which are similar to those encountered in middle
Middle school
Middle School and Junior High School are levels of schooling between elementary and high schools. Most school systems use one term or the other, not both. The terms are not interchangeable...

 and high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 settings. They are sometimes referred to as paraprofessional
Paraprofessional
Paraprofessional is a job title given to persons in various occupational fields, such as education, healthcare, engineering and law, who are trained to assist professionals but are not themselves licensed at a professional level...

s ('paras' for short) or teacher's aides. Elementary school teaching assistants are generally hired on a contract that lasts the entire academic year. Teaching assistants aide with multiple duties within schools, and can be hired in special education as well.

See also


  • Tutor
    Tutor
    A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor is to perform the functions of a tutor.-Teaching assistance:...

  • Research assistant
    Research assistant
    A research assistant is a researcher employed, often on a temporary contract, by a university or a research institute, for the purpose of assisting in academic research...

  • Tutor expertise in adult education
    Tutor expertise in adult education
    'Tutor expertise in adult education, through the use of content and process experts, is important in the successful delivery of adult education. Each has a specific role and a particular set of attributes which they bring to the classroom. Content experts are those who are well acquainted with the...


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