Fall GTA Orientation
for Students with Laboratory Assignments
Jacquelyn R. Duke, Ph.D.
How to be an effective GTA
• “Big Picture”
• Major Duties
• Tools and Resources
• Helpful Hints
• Pitfalls and Common Issues
• Additional Useful Info
• Training Opportunities
• GTA – Graduate Teaching Assistant
– Funded by Dept.
– Assist in undergraduate courses
– Sciences – usually refers to teaching of labs
• GRA – Graduate Research Assistant
– funded by research grant
– Assist major advisor in research, or funded to
conduct own research
The greater your satisfaction with your
job responsibilities, the more effective
you will be as an instructor
• What’s in it for “me”?
• What if I have no previous experience?
• Lab Prep
– May or may not required
– Make it your policy to be as much a part of the set
up as you can – it will only make you a more
• Conducting Lab Exercises
– Clearly define your role
• Lab Clean up
– Again, will depend on your assignment
– Observe all safety precautions before disposing of
any chemicals and/or organic material!
• Maintain Office Hours
– How many??
– Outside of lecture times!
– Post your office hours
– Office hours are held in grad student offices
– Remember that confidentiality rules apply!
– Clarify expectations with professor
– Choose a level of feedback appropriate to the
– Schedule time for grading
– Make comments clear and organized
– Report regularly to the professor
• Attending weekly meetings
– Be prompt!
– Come prepared
– Speak up if you feel you’re deficient
• Professors usually assume you’re familiar with
• Can provide you with valuable resources
• Overseeing LAs
• LAs- Laboratory Assistants (undergraduate
assistants in many science courses)
– Clearly define your relationship (ask your
– Clearly define your expectations of them
– Never leave them unattended unless you’ve
been given direct authorization
– Same goes for their access to students’
• Field trips
– Ensure (well ahead of time) you are authorized to
drive University vehicles/passenger vans
– Guidelines for Driving on Behalf of Baylor:
– Know the University policy for what to do in the case
of an accident
– Never give students authorization to “meet you there”.
We are required to provide transportation to and from
• Attend Lecture Sections
– May or may not be required
– In your best interest, particularly if it’s is your
first time in the course
• Better grasp of the material
• Relating your focus to that of the lecture
• Better relationship with the students
• Your attendance counts as hours worked
• Attending Lecture Sections
– Maintain Seating chart
– Take attendance
– Take class notes
• Conducting review sessions/study sessions
– Reserve rooms with your Dept.
– Make sure you have access to your room
• Lecturing during professor’s absence
– Your notes or the professors?
– Make sure you have access to the room and
– Excellent opportunity – great for CVs
Other potential duties:
• Proctoring Lecture Exams
• Grading Lecture Exams
• Entering Lecture Grades
Tools and Resources
– Your email login and password access BBoard
– Bearspace – file storage
• Baylor email account
• Considered official correspondence
• Check frequently!
• Copy (cc) the professor on all official
• Don’t give out your cell phone/home number
unless you want to be called; Students will call at
all hours (sometimes professors will too.)
• If the professor does not reply to your email,
make a phone-call or visit in person
Miscellaneous issues (some of these are more
than just hints – they’re actually policy)
Working with the Professor
Starting out Right:
• Introduce yourself: If your professor hasn’t contacted
you – make the first move. Set up a time to meet.
• Request a description of responsibilities
– Work duties as well as classroom policies
• Ask to be introduced to each of the classes you will
• Request a copy of the course syllabus
• Bring a checklist to your first meeting
• Ask if there are any days/times when you will have to
work outside of “normal” hours (Saturday field trips,
proctoring exams) and resolve conflicts early!
Prior to Day One
• Obtain the lab manual – and read through it
• Visit your classroom
– lights, hood vents, gas/air valves, technology (test
projectors etc.), water baths, centrifuges, hot plates…
• Create a cheat-sheet for
your first day (assume
you’ll be nervous)
– List items to be addressed,
• Exude confidence!
– Your enthusiasm goes a long way!!!
– Point out fire extinguisher, eye wash, emergency shower, MSDS
sheets, hazardous chemicals (e.g. latex allergies), etc.
• Course expectations
– Clearly state classroom policies as well as your personal preferences
• Students can’t respect your policies if they are unaware of them
• Don’t assume policies “carry over” from the lecture section
• Dress the part – wear a lab coat, close-toed
– You can’t enforce the rules if you’d don’t adhere to
them yourself (this goes for food/drink in the lab as
– Serious consequences (for your Dept) if you choose
to ignore safety procedures
• Remain professional at all times
– It’s easy in a lab setting to become very comfortable,
but remember that you are still the authority in the
• Create your own syllabus
– So many benefits!!
• Be concise in your teaching
• Perform experiments
beforehand – know the
• Accept that you can’t know it
all – there will be questions
you can’t answer
• Scantron machine
• Allot hours
• Assume extra hours at the end of the semester.
Do your own papers early, so that grading does
• Grade and enter grades quickly
• Utilize Blackboard!
• Know where your professor is during your
• Know when your professor’s office hours are
• Communicate frequently with your professor
– grading, absences, etc.
• Meet regularly with your peers
– Communicate issues you’re having with each
– Seek out TAs who’ve taught your course before
Avoiding Pitfalls: Common
• Know your authority ahead of time
• Ethical Behavior (honesty, plagiarism, cheating)
– Familiarize yourself with University policy
– Check with your professor on how they want you to
handle such situations
• Special Services (OALA):
– It is the student’s responsibility to inform you of their
• Multiculturalism and gender issues
When Something Goes Wrong
• Experiment doesn’t work
– Don’t panic – failed experiments often present the best
– Maintain a sense of humor
– Isn’t science all about trial and error??
• Hazardous situations
– Again, don’t panic
– Have a plan in place
– Have a list of important numbers located with your
MSDS sheets – Fire, Police, Risk Management
Know Your Environment:
• Familiarize yourself with the office copy machine
– Before using office equipment, or taking office
supplies ASK what the dept. policies are for your use
• What to do when things don’t go well with the
– Don’t let situations fester – address problems early
Handy Research Tips
– Two Main Libraries: Moody and Jones
– Maps, Circulation desks, Computers (laptops), Research
• BearCat: http://www3.baylor.edu/Library/
• OsoFast: ILL at Baylor,
• Electronic Resources:
• BearSpace: Storing Information,
• SET - Seminars for Excellence in
– More on that in a bit, with Chris Rios…
• Teaching Commons
– Designed for faculty/grad student interaction
Return to the “Big Picture”
The greater your satisfaction with
your job responsibilities, the more
effective you will be as a
• Jon Thomas
• Stephanie Capello
• Vanessa Castleberry
• Tiffany Turner
• Justin Tidmore
• John Hall
• Tony Chen
Past SET Electives
• "Preparing To Teach Your Class"
with Dr. Tom Hanks
• "Preparing Effective Test Questions"
with Dr. Darrell Hull
• "Engaging the Lecture Class: How Do I Involve Students When Class
Size or Other Circumstances Call for Lecturing?"
with Drs. Genie and Preston Dyer
• "Sage on the Stage and Guide on the Side: Three Models of
with Dr. Tony Talbert
• "Teaching as Performance"
with Dr. Marion Castleberry
• "Teaching in the Sciences"
with Dr. Joseph D. White
• "Plato's Cave as Metaphor for Educators"
with Dr. Anne-Marie Bowery
• "Encouraging and grading student writing"
with Dr. Amanda Sturgill