How can I train teaching assistants and/or learning assistants?

posted March 22, 2016 and revised March 30, 2017
by Sam McKagan, PhysPort Director

Many research-based teaching methods in physics include activities in which graduate teaching assistants (TAs) and/or undergraduate learning assistants (LAs) facilitate students working in small groups. The success of these methods thus depends heavily on how well TAs and LAs are trained in effective facilitation. Ideally, TAs and LAs should take a course in which they learn about the pedagogy of active learning, and about student thinking about the specific topics they will be teaching.

If you are teaching such a course, here are some resources to help you support your TAs and LAs in supporting your students' learning:

Periscope: Periscope is a collection of lessons for faculty and LAs/TAs to:

  • watch and discuss videos of best-practices physics classrooms
  • apply lessons learned to actual teaching situations
  • practice interpreting student behavior
  • become more effective teachers

Tutorial facilitation videos: PhysPort and the LA alliance have also created videos about using Tutorials in Introductory Physics with tips for:

  • Running weekly tutorial preparation sessions for TAs and LAs (video)
  • Facilitating tutorials (video)

Teaching a course in physics education research (PER):

Image courtesy of PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder