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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

GTA training program growing

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 04 - September 17, 1998

A total of 367 students from 50 departments attended the eighth annual Graduate School's graduate-teaching-assistant (GTA) workshops, according to Don McKeon, director of ESL/GTA training. This fall, 323 completed the requisite number of sessions to be registered for the one-credit Grad 5004 course -- compared to 283 students from 44 departments last year.
The three-day workshop consists of orientation to Virginia Tech, its students, support services, and resources; presentations on teaching classes (preparing syllabi, lecturing, leading discussions), conducting laboratories, grading homework, constructing and grading tests, writing across the curriculum, using electronic resources, interacting with students of various backgrounds, ethics, and managerial issues; and discussion groups with experienced GTA's and Diggs teaching scholars.
Sixty faculty members, support-services professionals, and experienced GTA's presented the programs. On a four-point scale, the students gave the program a 3.74 for its organization, a 3.43 for its scope, a 3.23 for its depth of coverage, and a 3.38 for overall usefulness. The program rated a 3.21 for having increased students' confidence.
Based on comments gleaned from student evaluations, many students found interaction with experienced GTA's beneficial. Students praised sessions on tips from teachers (innovative teaching, time management, first-day issues) and use of technology. Students appreciated the information on resources and services available. Frequent requests on the evaluation were for information on duties other than teaching, more breakout sessions on specific details of responsibility and technical topics, and fewer broad-based lectures, and a larger meeting place than Litton Reaves auditorium.
Several students requested role-playing activities, even if the program would be extended a day or two. Several suggested more days of half-day sessions rather than three eight-hour days. Students also said they would like more time to interact with faculty members and other students, even if it meant another day on the workshop.
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 the GTA's' participation could be so indicated on their transcripts.
The workshop relies heavily on the expertise of members of the 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 workshop that is open to all graduate students and new faculty members.