TA Days

Aspects of your work as teaching assistants may vary departmentally across the institute. However, there are also roles, responsibilities, and concerns that are common across MIT teaching assistants. To support you in developing these foundations of TAing, we offer a series of workshops called TA Days.

The summer 2021 TA Days workshops will be held online and in person. Visit our Canvas site to register and for more detailed descriptions of each workshop.

Workshop Schedule

Workshop Descriptions

Techniques to Get Students Talking

Conducting a discussion and encouraging student participation in recitations and discussion sections presents unique challenges as TAs balance their own preparation with interpersonal skills while being open to improvisation and still fulfilling learning goals. This module will provide you with a generalized outline for encouraging student participation and leading an active class discussion. You will learn about the most common barriers to participation and specific strategies to overcome these barriers and get students engaged and active. 

Supporting Student Wellbeing as a TA

Learning is most effective when students feel not only intellectually engaged but supported emotionally and personally. In this module, you will learn how to recognize the signs of student distress, as well as ways to support your students and peers as TAs. The session is facilitated by Jimmy Doan and Ray Feller from Student Support and Wellbeing, part of the Division of Student Life. Their office provides advice and advocacy for students and acts as a hub of resources, referrals, and information across the MIT community. Student Support and Wellbeing staff are integrated with other resources, including Disability and Access Services, to provide comprehensive academic and personal support to undergraduates.

Building Remote Communities

Among the largest challenges in teaching and learning remotely is the loss of the spontaneous communities that form inside and outside of classrooms that foster belonging and provide social support for learning. This module will showcase strategies to help build and sustain a sense of community in a remote classroom. Participants will consider the challenges of building community at the outset of a remote semester and how subject-level structures and norms, as well as “day-to-day,” can help students connect in a remote context.

Equity in the Remote Classroom

Remote learning has revealed many inequities in access to technology, personal and social support, and space for learning traditionally moderated by shared campus resources not available off-campus (e.g., libraries, computer labs, study lounges, etc.). In this module, you will learn how to consider these inequities in students’ remote learning experiences and make conscious decisions about how you structure your recitation, discussion session, office hours to make it accessible to all of your students.

ESL TA Panel

In this panel discussion, you learn from experienced English as a Second Language (ESL) TAs, who will share their stories, helpful tips, and how they navigated and overcame challenges unique to non-native English speaking TAs. Panelists will also answer your questions during a live Q&A.

Experienced TA Panels

Experienced TAs from different courses and schools will share the most important things they learned about being effective TAs and will answer questions from the audience about how to get started as a new TA. This module is presented as three parallel sessions, one for the School of Engineering, one for the School of Science, and one for SHASS, SA+P, and Sloan.

Leading a Problem-Solving Session

This module will provide you with a basic outline for a lecture or recitation session, examples of techniques you can use to actively engage students, and the research-based rationale for including those elements. This module is geared towards leaders of recitation sections that focus on problem-solving, but all are welcome. Note that this module includes a 2-part workshop.

Whiteboarding Apps Demos

With the move to all-remote teaching, several courses have adopted online whiteboarding apps like Explain Everything and Explain.mit to take the place of board work in recitations. This module includes resources to get you started in either Explain Everything or Explain.mit (ask your department which you will use). This module is primarily asynchronous, and participants are encouraged to play around with the relevant app to better understand its features. In addition to the asynchronous materials, there will be brief, synchronous demos showing how Explain Everything and Explain.mit were used during Fall 2020. You need only attend the portion of this session that applies to the app that you will use.

TAs and the Responsible Employee Duty

This module helps you understand the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response Office (IDHR, formerly known as T9BR), your obligations as a Responsible Employee, and what to do if you are to become aware of any situations related to gender- or sex-based discrimination (including sexual misconduct which is sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking). This module will introduce you to IDHR, talk about MIT policies, go over the various reporting options, cover important confidential resources, and deep-dive into what it means to be a Responsible Employee.

Note: If your department requires completion of this module, only the asynchronous portions of this workshop on Canvas are required. In the synchronous session, staff from IDHR will answer common questions, discuss scenarios, and help you better understand your role as a Responsible Employee.

Giving Feedback on Reports, Proposals, and Essays

Feedback on written assignments can be a challenging and often time-consuming activity as a TA. In this module, you will learn how to formulate helpful feedback for your students while balancing your feedback between style and content. You will also discuss ways to grade writing more efficiently and effectively.

Presenting a Class Session

The thought of leading a class session can be intimidating. This module will introduce you to strategies for presenting effectively to your class, whether through pre-recorded videos, Zoom lectures and discussion, or writing on a tablet. This module is facilitated by MIT SoE Communication Lab director Diana Chien and Comm Lab Fellow Jingfan Yang. The Comm Lab is a program that provides peer-to-peer support for building communication skills.

Inclusive Teaching as a TA

Inclusive teaching involves deliberately creating an equitable learning environment that supports all students’ learning and sense of belonging in the classroom community. In this introductory workshop, you will consider how you can support student learning by gaining awareness of the student experience and learn about specific inclusive teaching techniques that can be applied to your work as a teaching assistant. Through reflection, discussion, and case study work, you will explore and apply key dispositions and practices that create welcoming and equitable learning communities.

Using Canvas as a TA

Canvas is the new Learning Management System (LMS) available to the entire MIT community adopted Fall 2020. This asynchronous module introduces you to the basic and advanced features of Canvas with examples of how it might be used.

Facilitating Office Hours

In this module, you will learn how to better assess where students are in their thinking, use questioning techniques to encourage students to explain their thinking, and help students enhance their learning by connecting solution steps to course concepts. This module will also present research on effective tutoring.