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GTA training workshop gets high marks from students

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 04 - September 18, 1997

In the last seven years, nearly 2,000 graduate students have attended the Graduate School's graduate teaching assistant (GTA) workshops, according to Don McKeon, director of ESL/GTA training. This fall, 283 completed the six half-day sessions and another 44 attended at least one session.

The workshop consists of:

1. orientation to Virginia Tech, its students, support services, and resources;

2. presentations on teaching classes (preparing syllabi, lecturing, leading discussions), conducting laboratories, grading homework, constructing and grading tests, interacting with students of various backgrounds, ethics, and managerial issues; and

3. discussion groups with experienced GTA's and some of the Diggs scholars.

"This is one of the best-organized activities of its type and scale on campus," said John Muffo, one of the 45 speakers.

On a 4.0 scale, the students gave the program a 3.56 for its scope and 3.21 for having increased their confidence. Michael Sporakowski, head of family and child development, said, "Our students who completed it gave (McKeon) and the workshop rave notices."

Based on comments gleaned from student evaluations:

Many students found the panel session with experienced GTA's beneficial.

*The sessions on rhetorical sensitivity, dual roles, tips from teachers (innovative teaching, time management, first-day issues), the honor code, grading, and use of technology in particular, and the wide range of topics in general were praised.

*Lunch with the Diggs scholars was helpful.

*The students appreciated the information on resources and services available.

*Notes and handouts were viewed as a helpful future resource.

A frequent request on the evaluation was for department assignments before the workshop so that the GTA's would be better able to relate the information to what they will be doing.

GTA training at Virginia Tech was expanded from a one-day orientation for GTA's into a three-day workshop in 1991, which supplemented the departmental programs. In 1992, the Fall Workshop was made obligatory for all new GTA's by the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies and was accorded a one-credit status so that GTA participation could be so indicated on their transcripts. To receive credit, the GTA's must attend at least five of the six half-day sessions.

The workshop relies heavily on the expertise of members of Virginia Tech's Academy of Teaching Excellence, as well as that of experienced GTA's recommended by faculty members across the university.

The GTA Training Program is part of the Research and Graduate Studies' "Training the Future Professoriate" program, involving both TA training and research career preparation. The latter area is addressed in an annual two-day workshop that is open to all graduate students and new faculty members.