TA Training

For TAs new to teaching at Penn and for TAs working as part of teams in new types of instruction, CTL offers several different training programs.

TA Training for New TAs

From Wednesday August 25 to Friday August 27, 2021 new TAs in Arts and Sciences, Design, Nursing, Annenberg, Wharton and Engineering will participate in a three-day set of workshops on teaching and learning. Workshop topics include:

  • Leading Discussions in the Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences
  • Grading in the Humanities and Qualitative Social Sciences
  • Grading in the Sciences, Quantitative Social Sciences and Engineering
  • Leading Problem-solving Recitations in the Sciences, Quantitative Social Sciences & Engineering
  • Leading Effective Lab Sessions in the Sciences and Engineering
  • Teaching Demonstrations
  • Challenges Facing TAs

More information about workshops

The modality of TA Training in 2021 will be determined when we have a better understanding of Penn's campus policies in August and plans for the fall semester.

Apply to be a TA Trainer

Do you enjoy teaching? Would you like to help prepare your peers to enter the classroom next fall?

Every year the Center for Teaching and Learning asks experienced TAs to apply to help train new TAs. CTL needs doctoral students in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering to lead new TAs in workshops and facilitate teaching demonstrations and small-group discussions of scenarios.

Trainers will prepare to train other TAs by participating in several day-long workshops. Applicants should expect to be available for three full days in May (dates to be determined by trainer schedules) and must be available 8:30am-5pm during the entire week of August 23-August 27, 2021. They will receive a $1,600 stipend. Given the evolving Covid-19 situation, the modality of both the preparation for TA Training and the training itself remains uncertain. Applicants should be open to working with new TAs either remotely or in person.

To apply please complete this

 and email it to Ian Petrie by 5pm on Friday, February 19. Any questions can also be directed to him.

SAIL TA Training

For TAs working in Structured, Active, In-class Learning (SAIL) classes, CTL offers a SAIL-specific training program. This four-session program focuses on the following themes, as well as other issues that arise from TA’s experiences during the semester:

  • Managing group dynamics
  • Giving feedback to students
  • Guiding students through questions, including reformulating students’ questions so students can answer them
  • Breaking concepts and confusion into pieces so that students can address them in a step-by-step process
  • Preparing for an active learning class
  • Encouraging student preparation

Over the semester these themes will develop through the following sessions and activities:

  • Session I (shortly before classes start) – Introduction to TAing in a highly structured, highly active classroom.
  • Session II (first week of classes) – Practice guiding students in groups through role playing.
  • Individual observation (~weeks 2-5 of the semester) – Consists of a pre-observation meeting, an in-class recording and observation, and a post-observation meeting.
  • Session III (~week 5 of the semester) – Debrief on how things are going. What is difficult? What has been unexpected? What has gone particularly well?
  • Session IV (end of the semester) – Debrief on how things have gone over the semester. Consider how participants will use this experience in the future.

For more details about this training, contact ctl-help@lists.upenn.edu.

To read more about what the justification for this training read this paper.


Active Learning Recitations TA Training

For TAs running an active learning recitation for the first time, planning and facilitating this class time can be a challenge.  This training provides TAs teaching active learning recitations with the opportunity to reflect on what they, in coordination with the instructor, are trying to achieve with recitation activities and how they might structure class time to achieve those goals.  In particular, we will consider how and when to move from group work to whole class discussions, how to facilitate effective group work, and how to ensure that students get the feedback that they need to get the most out of those activities.  In the four meetings, TAs will consider various classroom strategies, generate lesson plans for their own recitations, and give each other feedback on their plans.  We will then do individual observations of the TAs to give them feedback on their implementation of their plans.  Finally, TAs will be given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and think about how they will use it in the future. 

  • Meeting 1:  Using Active Learning to Achieve Your Goals This opening session will define what active learning is and explore the value of it in terms of our goals. After discussing various types of questions and activities that could be used to implement active learning in our classes, we will consider how these exercises can be effectively matched with our goals and assessments to promote student learning. 
  • Meeting 2:  Facilitating Productive Student Interactions In Class Student participation in whole class or group discussions can be effectively leveraged to support course goals, but it can be challenging to implement.  In this session, we will discuss ways to structure and motivate student participation, taking into consideration the benefits and pitfalls associated with various interactive class structures. 
  • Meeting 3:  Designing an Active Learning Experience To synthesize the ideas that we have been discussing and to get feedback on lesson plans for their recitations, participants will come prepared to discuss a lesson plan for an in-class activity.  We will give each other feedback on these lesson plans, and draw out larger lessons about issues of student accountability, class structure and dynamics, feedback, and assessment.  We will also discuss mid-semester surveys as a way to get feedback from students directly.
  • Individual Observations Participants will be observed and given individual feedback.
  • Meeting 4:  Reflecting on the Semester We hope that your recitations will not only be good learning experiences for your students, but for you as well, whether you will be teaching in the future or not.  This final session will be used to debrief on how things have gone, thinking about what has worked well for you, for your discipline, or for certain types of activities?  What has not?  How will you use this experience in the future?