Teaching challenge: Helping students and TAs connect in a large class

In today’s Mass Communication Teaching class, I proposed to the class that each class meeting we discuss a challenge that one of us is having in our teaching — or a teaching challenge that is anticipated.

Our first challenge came from a class member who is teaching an auditorium class of 105 students. The course is a writing course. The students complete several writing assignments during the semester that are graded by teaching assistants. But she explained that the students never have class with the TAs. The assignments are submitted through eLearning (UF’s course management system), and the students receive their evaluated work through eLearning.

The discussion revolved around how to promote the students and the TA actually connecting. One class member who did her undergraduate work at UF recounted the time she met her TA when she went in to discuss her final exam grade — obviously, after the class was over.

Here were some of the strategies for addressing this teaching challenge:

  • Have the TAs introduce themselves during the lecture. She did that during one of the first lectures. So each student has been introduced to his/her TA.
  • For a class meeting, have students sit in the auditorium based on their TA assignment. During class, have each TA talk with his/her students. This may be problematic, due to the auditorium arrangement and the fact each TA has 30 students.
  • Have the students meet with their TAs in another room during the lecture time. That’s not possible, as other rooms aren’t available.
  • Require students to meet with the TA during office hours. That was tried in a previous semester, and the TAs were swamped with having to meet with 30 students.
  • Use the function in eLearning that allows for a moderated discussion. Have each TA have a discussion with his/her students about the upcoming writing assignment.

As a group, we thought the last suggestion might work the best in this situation, as one of the course goals is to encourage students to use technology. We also said that the online discussion would promote participation because it would be based on an assignment and participation — asking questions or at least reading the discussion — would help students perform better on the assignment.

The grad student who posed this challenge said she was going to think about what strategy to try and will report back to the class.

One comment

  1. I have tried all of the ides we discussed and have added more to the list. After the last major assignment, I had the TAs all get up in front of the class and talk about what the class as a whole had done well and areas they could improve. Each of the TAs encouraged students to come and visit them if they had concerns or problems. All of the TAs had some students stay to schedule appointments, so I am counting this as a success!

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