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Fall 2019 Teaching Assistant Institute

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
8:00 am to 3:30 pm
Duke Ellington Ballroom, Holmes Student Center

Links to download session resources and handouts are now available


At this institute, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) will learn the basic principles of teaching and related responsibilities, gather information about campus support resources, and network with other GTAs, faculty, and resource staff. While it is designed for new graduate teaching assistants, continuing graduate teaching assistants will also benefit. This is an institute on teaching and related responsibilities of teaching assistants, and not an orientation on employment-related policies, procedures, etc. The day's sessions are presented by NIU faculty, staff, and administrators who are knowledgeable and experienced in the topics.

Tentative Schedule

8:00 am   Check-In and Refreshments  
8:30 am   Welcome and Overview - Bradley Bond, Associate Vice-President for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate School  
8:45 am   Understanding Your Role as a Teaching Assistant - Renique Kersh, Associate Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Success slides
9:30 am   Preparing to Teach & Managing Your Classroom Effectively - Sarah Klaper, Office of the Ombudsperson handout slides
10:00 am   Morning Break  
10:10 am   Assisting Students with Emotional/Behavioral Concerns - Tim Paquette, Counseling & Consultation Services handout | slides
Reducing Barriers for Students with Disabilities - Amanda Newman, Disability Resource Center handout | slides
    Inclusivity in the Classroom - Molly Holmes, Gender & Sexuality Resource Center and Katy Jaekel, Counseling and Higher Education slides
11:10 am   Teaching Across the Disciplines - Panel of Experienced Teaching Assistants  
11:45 am   Lunch in  
1:00 pm   Breakout Session A - choose one of the sessions below
2:00 pm   Afternoon Break
2:15 pm   Breakout Session B - choose one of the sessions below
3:30 pm   Wrap-up and Closing at Individual Breakout Sessions

1:00 pm


Teaching with Technology,Capitol Room (1st floor)
Cameron Wills, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

A wide assortment of instructional technologies are available that will not only enhance the learning experience for your students but also save you time. But what technologies fit best into your teaching? This session is an introduction to the Blackboard Learn learning management system from the instructor’s perspective. You will learn how to organize content, browse through some tools and features, and be introduced to the Grade Center.

handout | slides

Research Right! A Library Refresher,Illinois Room (2nd floor)
Larissa Garcia, University Libraries

The University Libraries contains over 2 million print volumes, 200+ research databases, and access to more than 40,000 electronic journals. Perhaps the greatest resources for Graduate Teaching Assistants are the Librarian Subject Specialists and reference services. In this breakout session, Larissa Garcia will share strategies and techniques for getting the most out of library services. Working with resources from their own discipline, participants will learn concrete searching and access strategies they can implement, and share with their students.


Teaching Strategies for Engaging Students, Heritage Room (2nd floor)
Amanda Smothers and Yvonne Johnson, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center

Students learn best when they are actively engaged in their own learning. Yet creating an environment to encourage student engagement can often seem challenging for both new and experienced teachers. In this session, Amanda and Yvonne will share a variety of strategies to promote student engagement in your classes.

handout | slides

Managing Your Time, Room 305
Lesley Gilbert, Human Resources Services

Do you always feel pressure in balancing your teaching assistant responsibilities and your student responsibilities? This session will focus on techniques and principles of managing your time wisely. Participants will discuss case scenarios and participate in a brainstorming session to deal with resolving issues that hinder managing time effectively.

handout | slides

Providing Teaching Related Support, Room 405
Jim Horn, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Many Graduate Teaching Assistants may not deliver instruction, but provide a variety of teaching-related support in and outside the classroom. This may include conducting lab sessions, grading, tutoring, leading recitations, conducting office hours, and assisting their faculty supervisors and students in many other ways on teaching and learning-related issues. In this session, Jim Horn, recipient of NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award, will offer tips and techniques for fulfilling the diverse tasks required of non-teaching GAs, but any TAs or GAs interested in the session can attend.

handout | slides

2:15 pm


Creating Inclusive Spaces in the Classroom, Capitol Room (1st floor)
Joseph Flynn, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Students can learn and thrive in positive, inclusive spaces. In this session with Dr. Joseph Flynn, participants will spend time exploring inclusive classroom strategies to create spaces of belonging for students. You will develop self-awareness in your position as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and explore ways to eliminate, interrupt. and respond to microaggression experiences.

handout | slides

Managing and Connecting with Students in Large Classes, Illinois Room (2nd floor)
Courtney Gallaher, Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences and Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality

Teaching large classes effectively requires a set of different strategies and methods than teaching smaller classes. Through careful planning large classes can be an exciting teaching and learning experience for the instructor and the students. In this session, Courtney Gallaher, will present a number of ways to manage tasks, distractions, passive students, and class activities. Come prepared to share and learn ways to be effective when teaching and engaging students in the large classroom setting.

handout | slides

Presenting/Communicating Effectively, Heritage Room (2nd floor)
Judy Santacaterina, Department of Communication

Communication behaviors, both verbal and non-verbal, generally support the declared learning objectives and facilitate student comprehension. However, often without being aware of it, instructors use communication behaviors that can undermine the learning objectives. In this session, Judy Santacaterina, will share strategies for communicating effectively in the classroom and help GTAs to become aware of the communication strategies they use.

handout | slides

Teach, Lead, Succeed: Career and Professional Development Opportunites at NIU, Room 305
Elizabeth Wilkins, The Graduate School

Come learn about the new Graduate Career and Professional Development Community Portal and how it facilitates collaboration among graduate students from across disciplines. Familiarize yourself with the Career Development Pathway and how to take advantage of free career and professional development programming to create a personalized experience that can be channeled into an online Individual Development Plan. Workshop opportunities that focus on LinkedIn, real-time job analytics, networking with program area alumni, cover letters, CVs, resumes, mock interviews, grant writing and more are available to you. What are you waiting for? Become a member today and take advantage of the free services to help you be successful on your career path.

handout | slides

Using Grading Strategies to Promote Student Learning, Room 405
Cynthia Campbell, Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment

Q: What word comes to mind when you think of assessment, grading, and statistics? A: Fear? Anxiety? Dread? Well let's change that. In this session, Cynthia Campbell will share successful tips and strategies that can transform traditional grading and feedback into something that is inspirational. Whether you will provide grading support, teach a course, tutor, run a lab or studio, you will inevitably need to evaluate students and provide feedback. Learn how to do this in effective and efficient ways, which can be empowering for you and your students.

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Registration Information

This institute is open to all graduate teaching assistants, research assistants, and staff assistants at NIU. The institute is designed for new graduate assistants, but continuing graduate assistants are welcome to attend. The sessions cover general teaching and teaching-related responsibilities which are applicable to all disciplines; individual departments may provide more detailed discipline-specific training. The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center does not require graduate teaching assistants to attend the Teaching Assistant Institute, but individual departments may require their graduate assistants to attend. Please check with your department about participation requirements.

Advanced Registration is now closed, but walk-in registration begins Tuesday, 8/21 at 8:00am at the Holmes Student Center Duke Ellington's Ballroom.

Registered participants will receive institute materials, refreshments, lunch, and a certificate of participation. Due to the expensive nature of the institute, limited seats available, and advance notice required for arrangements, please register by the deadline and attend the entire institute. A certificate of participation will only be awarded for attending the entire institute.

The registration confirmation will be sent to your NIU email account, either your employee A-ID or student Z-ID email (whichever you use to register). If you do not know your ID or password, review this help page on IDs and passwords for more information. If you do not have an ID and password, and you have tried to look it up, email to register. After submitting your registration, if you do not receive a response within 2 working days, please contact the Center at

After registering, if you are unable to attend, please cancel your registration at by Monday, August 19, 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions? View answers to commonly asked questions below.

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The Teaching Assistant Institute (formerly called "Teaching Assistant Orientation") is open to all those with graduate teaching assistant, research assistant, or staff assistant appointments at NIU during the semester it is offered.

The Teaching Assistant Institute is designed for new graduate assistants at NIU who need a basic overview of teaching and teaching-related responsibilities, policies, and campus support resources. Returning graduate assistants are also welcome to attend to refresh their knowledge about teaching and related issues.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center does not require graduate assistants to attend the Teaching Assistant Institute. However, participating in the institute may be required by some departments on campus. Check with your department about participation requirements.

While we strive to ensure that the Teaching Assistant Institute is relevant and up-to-date, the majority of the content remains the same each year. Returning graduate assistants are welcome to attend the institute again, but may find that the content is similar to the previous institute they attended.

We understand that the week before classes is busy for many graduate assistants. We encourage you to attend as much of the Teaching Assistant Institute as possible, but you may leave if necessary. However, please note that certificates of participation are only awarded for attending the entire day. Also, if you attend only part of the day, that will be reported to your department.

If the Teaching Assistant Institute presenters make their handouts and presentation materials electronically available for posting them online, we will make them available on our website after the institute is over. There are a few tutorials that present some of the information. See Overview of Teaching and Related Responsibilities, Promoting and Maintaining Classroom Civility, and Recognizing and Assisting Students in Emotional Distress.

Yes, attendance at the Teaching Assistant Institute is mandatory to receive the Graduate Teaching Certificate offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. You will also have to attend 5 additional workshops offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Attending one day-long workshop can be substituted for two of the required five workshops. Learn more about the Graduate Teaching Certificate.

It would be helpful to bring a pen and some paper or a small notebook to take notes. Also, since we have no control over the temperature of the room, you may want to bring a light jacket or sweater.

There is no fee for attending the Teaching Assistant Institute; the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers the institute free of charge. However, it is expensive to provide the food, materials, AV, and speakers’ needs, not to mention the time our staff devotes to planning and executing the program. The Center does not receive student fees or grants to fund the Teaching Assistant Institute and other programs. Therefore, we would appreciate if those who register for the Teaching Assistant Institute are not absent on the day of the program. If you know you will be unable to attend, please cancel by the deadline so that we may give opportunities for those on the waiting list to attend and/or reduce program expenses.

No, parking permits are not issued for attending the TA Institute. You can park in the visitor pay lot located on Carroll Avenue for a fee for the day. Alternatively, you can purchase the appropriate parking permit for the following academic year or semester from Campus Parking Services and use it to park in the parking deck located on Normal Road or any of the approved lots. For more information, visit the Campus Parking Services website.

If you have purchased a Yellow parking permit, the parking deck on Normal Road is the most convenient parking location since the Teaching Assistant Institute is held in the Holmes Student Center. If you do not have a parking permit, you can park in the visitor pay lot located on Carroll Avenue for a daily fee. View a map of all parking lots at NIU's DeKalb campus. For more information, visit the Campus Parking Services website.

In the morning, refreshments are provided which include coffee, orange juice, water, and a variety of breakfast pastries. Lunch will be provided (details still being finalized). 

No, the Teaching Assistant Institute will not be filmed. The cost to film the institute would be too high and, given the location, the quality would be poor. If you can't attend the institute, you can find the handouts after the event on the Teaching Assistant Resource page. There are also short tutorials that cover similar material available with the handouts.

Yes, if the presenters make their handouts and presentation materials available electronically, we will make them available on the Teaching Assistant Resource page after the event.

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Registration will open in July. Return to the Teaching Assistant Institute site then. You will need your employee A-ID or student Z-ID and password to register. Learn more about your ID and password

You may cancel your registration by logging into the event registration system. Due to the expensive nature of the program and the large number of attendees, we would appreciate if you would notify us by the deadline listed on the TA Institute announcement.

In the past, the Teaching Assistant Institute was scheduled to occur after classes started. However, overwhelming feedback received from graduate assistants indicated that it would be more convenient before the semester began. TAs found it difficult to attend the institute after classes started because of schedule conflicts. TAs also stated that they would like to have the information presented at the Teaching Assistant Institute before they started teaching or providing teaching-related support. This is why the institute is scheduled during the week before classes start and between other programs scheduled for faculty.

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The Teaching Assistant Institute introduces graduate teaching assistants to basic principles of teaching and related responsibilities that are applicable to all disciplines. Session presenters will also share information about campus support resources.

Yes, the Teaching Assistant Institute is relevant for all graduate assistants at NIU, including graders, tutors, research assistants, and staff assistants. The general sessions will provide valuable information about resources at NIU, and there is a breakout session in the afternoon specifically designed for non-teaching graduate assistants.

The session topics are chosen based on input from academic departments, the Faculty Development Advisory Committee, and feedback from past participants of the Teaching Assistant Institute. The sessions cover general topics that faculty supervisors would like their graduate assistants to know, regardless of their responsibilities, including topics related to teaching, campus support services, and policies related to teaching and providing teaching-related support.

The Teaching Assistant Institute sessions are presented by faculty, administrators, and staff who have considerable experience and expertise on the various topics covered by the sessions. They volunteer their time and effort to present the sessions and prepare graduate assistants for their responsibilities.

The requirements of being a graduate assistant certainly differ by department, but the majority of the basic information graduate assistants need to be successful is the same, regardless of department or type of assistantship. The Teaching Assistant Institute is designed to give all graduate assistants an overview of the requirements of being a GA; it is up to individual departments to communicate and train their graduate assistants on their own discipline-specific expectations. Please check with your department for discipline-specific training for graduate assistants.

Usually, 170 to 200 graduate assistants attend the Teaching Assistant Institute and there is not a computing facility at NIU that seats that many users. Along with computer stations, hands-on technology workshops also require more time (2 to 3 hours per session) and more support staff to help participants during such workshops. If you are interested in getting more assistance with technology, a number of hands-on technology workshops are available throughout the semester (the current schedule is available here). The Teaching Assistant Institute sessions are about basic teaching principles and campus support services.

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Along with useful information presented at the sessions and opportunities to network with graduate assistants from other disciplines, registered participants will receive institute materials, refreshments, and a certificate of participation.

Certificates of participation are awarded to all graduate assistants who participate in the entire day of programming. Attendance is expected and recorded at the afternoon breakout sessions. You will also need to complete the survey.

Certificates are mailed directly to your department, usually within a few weeks of the Teaching Assistant Institute.