06 November 2009

Tutorials and the Significant Role of the TA's

It is unfortunate that many TA's are so busy with their research and course work that they often have minimal time to devote to tutorial preparation, whether in the material to be covered or teaching methods. A study by Koenig et al (2007) found that student performance gain in learning drastically improved in tutorials where students work in groups with TA's interaction using Socratic dialogue over tutorials where they work alone, or where they learn in a traditional lecture setting, or even in groups by themselves without other inputs from TA's. Student satisfaction of tutorials is clearly linked to the teaching performance of the TA's.

Interestingly though, when students were asked which style of tutorial did they prefer, more students indicate a traditional lecture style than Socratic group discussion with a TA, even though it is less effective. Perhaps the latter style moves the students out of their comfort zone a tad more than what they are used to and may seem to demand more work from them? In any case, this latter style seems to be more successful in moving students away from their initial misconceptions in the tutorials.

In order to implement such learning / teaching style in the tutorials, TA's will require weekly training to prepare for the tutorials. They have to work through the material and they need guidance on how to use Socratic dialogue with each tutorial topic.


Koenig, K., Endorf, R., Braun, G. (15 May 2007). Effectiveness of Different Tutorial Recitation Teaching Methods and Its Implications for TA Training. The American Physical Society. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research. 3, 010104-1 to 010104-9.

1 comment:

Ed Knorr said...

We'll need to get "buy in" from the TAs, and education them on the best teaching principles. It's going to take time. Perhaps the best way to make the time is to include it as part of their hours for their weekly TA duties.

This will cost the department more, but maybe it's a cost that should be carried by the department (or maybe take it out of the CSSEI budget, and get an extra TA for the course in question). After a few terms of this, we can determine the overall effectiveness, and whether or not we want to continue.