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Selling TAs on Learner Centered Education


Selling TAs on Learner Centered Education. Steven L Brown. Department of Chemistry ... To effectively create a LCE environment in such a course requires modifying not ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Selling TAs on Learner Centered Education

Selling TAs on Learner Centered Education
  • Steven L Brown
  • Department of Chemistry
  • University of Arizona

The Problem
  • Our Laboratory courses are taught by teaching
    assistants novice educators with little or no
    knowledge of teaching theories and practices. To
    effectively create a LCE environment in such a
    course requires modifying not only the lab course
    but also the training of the teaching assistants.

The Proposal
  • Structure the training of teaching assistants to
    incorporate LCE principles in such a way that the
    TAs would be more likely to incorporate LCE
    principles into their own teaching.

Lab Course Paradigm
  • A learner-centered classroom.
  • Constructivist assignments.
  • Collaborative learning.
  • Discovery-based experimentation.
  • We insist that students take ownership of their
    own learning.
  • We are learning facilitators.

Teaching Teaching
  • What is practical?
  • Preterm training
  • In service training

Teaching Teaching
  • How do we do it?
  • Modeling

TA Training and Orientation Program
  • Required of all new teaching assistants prior to
    the first term they teach.

TA Training Orientation Program
  • The Basics
  • The usual collection of assessment exams commonly
    known as qualifiers
  • The standard meet and greet by the
  • Department Policies and Procedures.
  • True Colors Personality Inventory.
  • Red Cross CPR First Aid Training Class.

TA Training Orientation Program Workshops
  • 1. Who are our students?. An introduction
    to our undergraduate chemistry course offerings
    and the students who populate them.
  • 2. What do we mean by teaching?. A group
    development of the concept of teaching and how it
    applies to chemical education.
  • 3. Professionalism. Maintaining the proper
    professional demeanor while teaching.

More Workshops
  • 4. Teaching Methodologies. Our current
    understanding of how learning is achieved in an
    academic setting.
  • 5. Department of Chemistry Teaching
    Laboratory Policies and Procedures. How things
    get done.
  • 6. Teaching Laboratory Safety.
    Responsibilities of a teaching assistant.

Even More Workshops
  • 7. Lecturing and Tutoring Techniques. An
    introduction to the issues and some suggestions
    on approach.
  • 8. Evaluating Students and Issuing Grades.
    A discussion of grading systems, keeping records,
    grade distributions, etc.
  • 9. TA Evaluation. Review of the process
    used to evaluate TAs, the rewards and other
    possible outcomes.
  • 10. Introduction to the lab. Overview of
    first day in lab activities.

TA Training Orientation Program Assignments
  • Lab Skill Evaluation. Students are observed
    performing selected gen chem techniques.
  • Practice presentations. Each student is assigned
    to give a 10 minute presentation to their peers
    on one of the freshman experiments. Peer
    critique follows presentation.

TA Training Orientation Program Assignments
  • Mock Lab. Groups are to perform assigned
    experiments. Technique to be formally evaluated
    by instructional staff.
  • Practice lab report grading assignment. Students
    are given three reports to grade which are
    discussed during the report grading workshop.

TA Training Orientation Program Key Features
  • Frequent assessment of student knowledge and
  • Stress on student participation in workshops and
    through assignments.
  • Modeling of LCE Principles while presenting them.
  • Modeling the teaching we wish for them to employ.

Chem 595c College Teaching
  • A one-credit colloquium course.
  • Meets one day each week for ¾ of the semester.
  • Grade based on five assignments.

College Teaching Topics
  • Assessment in a learner-centered lab class.
  • Evaluating lab reports. Students are required to
    bring along three, graded reports. Their grading
    is be peer evaluated.
  • Writing exams.
  • Identifying learning. Student are assigned to
    observe two peer classes and evaluate the
    teaching methodologies employed.
  • Mid-term exam evaluation. Students are required
    to bring a copy of the midterm exam they prepared
    for evaluation.
  • Determining and issuing final grades.
  • Peer Observation Discussion Review of TA
    Evaluation Procedures.

Class Assignments
  • Self evaluation of teaching plan.
  • Group assessment of report grading.
  • Group assessment of exams.
  • Group assessment of exam outcomes.
  • Peer evaluation of two group members.

The First Homework Assignment
  • Self-evaluation of Presentation Techniques.
  • Students are assigned to tape one of their own
    pre-lab lectures and then listen to the tap and
    compare what they hear to their original design
    for the presentation.

The Second Homework Assignment
  • Students are assigned to observe two classes
    taught by their peers and to evaluate how
    effectively the teaching methodologies employed
    meet Learner-Centered Education Principles.

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  • Hallies class was extremely different from Sung
    Yuens class. When Hallie began lecture, she
    simply asked, Are there any questions? Several
    students asked questions about the lab, all of
    which demonstrated that they had prepared for the
    lab. It was entirely learner centered since
    Hallie did not lecture at all. She only answered
    questions when they were brought up by the
    students. She also commonly asked the students
    questions as answers to their own questions
  • Almost all of the students appeared attentive
    while Hallie was answering questions. This makes
    sense because they did not have much of a

  • I have found a few things from these
    observations that I will try to incorporate into
    my teaching. First, I will do my best to remove
    a bit of the formality that can sneak into the
    structure of my class. I think my students are
    comfortable, but they dont necessarily loosen up
    until I start making playful announcements
    lightheartedness seems to make them more willing
    to think on their own and trust their instincts.
    I do think some formality is necessary to keep
    the students responsible in the lab and when
    completing assignments.

  • Instead of simply coming over and answering the
    question and fixing the problem with the machine,
    Karen asked what they thought was the problem
    with the instrument or the data. One of the
    students began to answer, but quickly stopped for
    he had run into a concept that he did not
    understand. Moments later, the other student
    began to talk, picking up slightly behind where
    the first had stopped but continued further into
    the problem and question posed. This type of
    interaction continued, with very little direction
    from Karen, but instead encouragement of the
    students as they jointly worked to determine the
    problem. The answer was reached by the students
    to which Karen added a few minor points about
    other complicating issues. The students went
    back to work, seemingly very happy with the
  • Karens approach fulfilled a number of the LCE
    goals, but most specifically helped to encourage
    number seven, a quality peer interaction

  • The TA recognized that his drawing was a bit
    confusing (although I think that was simply to
    sympathize with students that seemed confused
    because the drawing was very clear to me), and
    proceeded to explaining each part in detail. The
    fact that the drawing was not just assumed to be
    understood and some explaining was done by the
    TA, is a very positive aspect of this method
    because it allows for the TA to talk about
    something without loosing his students attention
    and it allows for questions, hence enhances
    teacher-student interactions.

Gen Chem Lab Listserv
  • Email Steve Brown at