Spring 2009


What is Microteaching?

Why wait for student evaluations to receive feedback on teaching practices? Microteaching provides an opportunity for teaching assistants to improve their teaching practices through a “teach, critique, re-teach” model. Microteaching is valuable for both new and experienced teaching assistants to hone their teaching practices. Microteaching is a concentrated, focused form of peer feedback and discussion that can improve teaching strategies.


Using Audio Feedback to Promote Teaching Presence

Using Audio Feedback to Promote Teaching Presence

What does a teaching assistant do in order to be present in the classroom? The answers to this question may seem obvious; show up for class, lead class activities and discussion, and assess student learning, to name a few. Such in-person interactions have been a benchmark of quality instruction for years and are usually indicative of smaller, discussion-based classes. But when class sizes are larger or when courses are transformed to blended or fully online formats, how can the same quality of dialogue and connections among students and teaching assistants be maintained?


Using Questions for Teaching and Learning

Teaching Through Key Questions

Asking students challenging and thought-provoking questions encourages students to tap their existing mental models and build upon previous knowledge. Teaching assistants can ask key questions to get students to see the relevance of a topic. In turn, it is hoped that students will then ask follow-up questions, engaging in dialogue while critically analyzing viewpoints shared. Therefore, by encouraging students to ask questions teaching assistants provide opportunities for students to become actively engaged in the learning process while also developing valuable metacognitive skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives. This article shares tips for designing and asking effective questions, during the beginning, middle and end of class, as well as asking questions outside of class.


Online Tutorials

Online Tutorials

Online tutorials can be an effective strategy to enhance teaching, whether instruction is entirely web-based, or supplements a traditional face-to-face class. While the design of online tutorials range from passive and basic to interactive and sophisticated, many times design decisions are by costs, resource demand, and time considerations.  Simple web-based tutorials can be designed to display content in a text and/or image format. Students passively view website material much as they would read a textbook. Indeed, these tutorials have come to be labeled ‘electronic page turners’. A related format is the ubiquitous PowerPoint Slide presentation, requiring students to view slides in either a manual or automated manner.


Early Warning System in Blackboard

The Early Warning System in Blackboard

The Early Warning System is a Blackboard tool used to monitor student progress in a course and alert teaching assistants to possible performance problems among students. The tool can also be used to communicate those warnings to students themselves to let them know how their performance is being measured. Notification warnings can be generated based on a set of rules that take into account graded performance, late or missing course work, or attendance within the Blackboard course. For example, a rule can be set up to generate a warning if there are any students in the course who scored below 60 percent on an exam or if some students have not logged in to the course for several days, or if students’ assignments are past due.



New Features in Blackboard 7.3

Blackboard is the course management system used campus-wide at NIU that allows teaching assistants to post materials, deliver tests and surveys, hold online discussion and perform many other course-related functions. In December 2008 Blackboard was upgraded from version 7.1 to 7.3. This upgrade includes some subtle new user features and system capabilities that previously have not existed. The new features in Blackboard 7.3 primarily can be found in three main toolsets: Discussion Board, Assessment and Gradebook, and the Visual Text Box Editor. In addition, the new Early Warning System tool in Blackboard can be used to monitor student progress and alert teaching assistants to possible performance problems.


Save The Date

Save the Date

Please save the dates for two upcoming programs:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 for Graduate Student Reception and Outstanding TA Awards Ceremony, from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 for Teaching Assistant Orientation, from 8:00 am to 3:15 pm


TA Connections is a newsletter for graduate teaching assistants published every fall and spring semester by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Adams Hall 319, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115. Phone: (815) 753-0595, Email: tadev@niu.edu, Fax: (815) 753-2595, Web site: http://www.niu.edu/facdev. For more information about featured articles or upcoming graduate teaching assistant development programs, please contact the Center at (815) 753-0595 or tadev@niu.edu

Last Updated: 10/01/2015

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