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Teaching Assistant Professional Development Day

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dalhousie Student Union Building

This one-day annual Teaching Assistant Professional Development Day is a series of workshops that takes place the second week of September. Workshops focus on TAs and graduate students who are interested in a teaching career.  Individuals choose from concurrent sessions designed to address the essential skills required by graduate students to effectively facilitate classes and enhance their teaching skills. 

Workshops will address topics such as:

  • on-line and in-class learning
  • providing feedback
  • building your teaching dossier
  • working in a lab
  • health and wellness
  • Dalhousie resources

TA Day 2017 Schedule

*Please note this schedule is subject to change.

8:30 to 9:00 am - Registration

Room 302

Registration opens and will remain so until 3:00 pm.

9:00 to 9:15 am - Opening Welcome

Room 307

Opening Welcome

Marty L. Leonard (PhD), Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies

Please join us in room 307 and start the day with a warm welcome from Dalhousie’s Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.

9:20 to 10:20 am - Concurrent Session 1

Council Chambers (2nd floor)

Strategies for Teaching Online and the Potential of BrightSpace in Online Learning

Geoff Seto (BSc), Biology

More students are opting for online courses, either because of time restrictions, distance from campus, or because of the flexibility they provide. Teaching online effectively can provide new and valuable experiences for students, and for TAs who might not be use to learning in this environment. Online courses require TAs to understand how to engage with learners and their teaching content virtually, which often requires different strategies and teaching methods than traditional face-to-face classrooms. In this session we will discuss the differences in teaching online vs face-to-face, the different methods TAs can use, and how to take advantage of our online teaching platform, BrightSpace, to help your teaching.

Room 307

A TA’s Guide to Simulated Learning: Integrating New Approaches to Our Teaching

Jacob Fletcher (MSc) Graduate Teaching Associate, Centre for Learning and Teaching

Societal expectations of higher education change with every generation, causing adaptational shifts in our teaching practices. Simulation learning allows students to apply their learning in ‘real world’ situations, and is an increasingly popular tool for teaching in labs and classrooms. This interactive session will introduce TAs to the topic of simulations; explore how TAs can integrate principles of simulated learning into their own teaching; and how students can benefit from learning with this progressive method.

10:30 to 11:20 am - Concurrent Session 2

Council Chambers (2nd floor)

Grading in the Sciences, Quantitative Social Sciences and Engineering

Sarah Greening, GTA Award Recipient, Graduate Student, Chemistry

Grading practices can vary widely between departments, classes, and assignments, but some things remain consistent: How can a TA provide constructive and consistent feedback to their students without becoming overwhelmed with the amount of marking? This session will allow participants to discuss and develop strategies to mark problem sets, short answers, and laboratory work efficiently and fairly, while managing workload and time. Emphasis will be placed on the unique elements of providing assessment feedback in STEM fields.

Room 307

Moving Beyond the Red Pen: Providing Effective Feedback During the Writing Process

Margie Clow Bowan (PhD) Manager, Writing Centre
Janice MacDonald Eddington, Advisor, Writing Centre

Feedback is important in order to direct and guide learners to success, and TAs are often tasked with this responsibility. Providing helpful and meaningful feedback during the writing process requires TAs to understand the importance of, and how to effectively provide, constructive feedback. In this session, we will discuss strategies for providing helpful feedback on written work, consider the value of rubrics in our teaching, and explore the relationship between the rubric (our expectations) and how we respond to the work of the learner.

11:30 am to 12:20 pm - Concurrent Session 3

Council Chambers (2nd floor)

Introducing the Certificate in University Teaching and Learning (CUTL) and the Teaching Assistant Enrichment Program (TAEP)

Jill Marie McSweeney (PhD) Educational Developer, Centre for Learning and Teaching
Tara Imlay (PhD Candidate) Department of Biology
Tiffany Gordon (PhD Candidate) Philosophy

The Centre for Learning and Teaching offers two formal programs to help students develop and document their teaching skills, and gain experience and professional competencies to apply to their teaching assistantships. Learn more about these programs, their impact on participants’ teaching development and practice, how they can give you an advantage in the job market, and how they can help you navigate your teaching responsibilities today and in the future!

Room 307

Creating a Dossier (and why you should have one!)

Betsy Keating (PhD Candidate) Educational Developer, Centre for Learning and Teaching

Whether you're planning an academic career or intending to work elsewhere, the dossier has become an important tool for job hunting and advancing in your career. The time to start is now! Dossiers take time to build, so don't wait until that important opportunity is already knocking. This session will introduce the main components of a dossier, offer information about the different types of dossiers, help you plan one that works for you, and give you a chance to ask questions. You'll leave with resources, a template, and a plan for next steps.

12:20 to 1:00 pm - Pizza Lunch

Room 302

Pizza lunch

Grab your lunch and head on over to the plenary in room 307 at 1:00 pm.

1:00 to 2:00 pm - Panel

Room 307

Panel - Globalization of the Classroom: Lessons, Experiences, and Tips for TAs

Jennifer McDonald (MA) Head Teacher, College of Continuing Education
Jobin Kanjirakkat (PhD) Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Kings College
Nadine Ezzeddine (MSc) Teaching Assistant, School of Nursing
Jacob Fletcher (MSc) Graduate Teaching Associate, Centre for Learning and Teaching

Embracing and supporting diversity is a central priority at Dalhousie. Within the classroom, student cohorts often represent a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In addition, there is also a possibility that international educators could find themselves leading a classroom of predominantly domestic students. While these social blends are beneficial to both student and educator, there exist some challenges that can help us learn as we move forward in the globalization of education. This student plenary will share insight and personal experiences of individuals who have embraced these challenges: resulting in self growth, enlightenment, and the development of their personal teaching philosophies.

2:10 to 3:00 pm - Concurrent Session 4

Council Chambers (2nd floor)

Tips and Strategies for Effective Laboratory Teaching

Jeff Simmons (MSc Candidate), Biochemistry

Labs provide students with the opportunity to apply the material they have learned in class through hands-on activities. A lab TA has the ability and opportunity to make this learning an incredible experience for undergraduates. This interactive workshop will cover strategies for new and returning lab TAs on how to effectively teach in laboratory settings. Topics to be discussed will include communication and demonstration of material, lab management and student behavior, building rapport and relationships with students, and effective teaching methods for lab-related activities.

Room 307

Techniques for Promoting Discussion and Engagement

Robin Curtis (PhD Candidate), Psychology

Class discussion can be one of the most exciting – and challenging! – forms of instruction. Active involvement in the classroom is critical in helping students refine and cement their learning, but can be tricky to facilitate effectively, depending on the size and nature of the class. This session will provide tips on how to craft questions and responses that stimulate, rather than stifle, discussion, and effective practices to manage small and large group discussions.

3:10 to 4:00 pm - Concurrent Session 5

Council Chambers (2nd floor)

Motivating Our Students Through Mentorship

Kerrianne Ryan (PhD) Research Fellow, Psychology and Neuroscience, FIGS Coordinator, Faculty of Science

Throughout our personal and academic development we seek role models and value the mentorship they provide. As we transition through this development within higher education, we experience mentorship in many forms and from various points of view. Each interaction is reciprocal and complex alone, but also combine at any one time into a complex network of mentorship. How can we develop our own mentoring skills while respecting what we can learn from both those we view as our mentees and our mentors? This workshop will use experiential learning to explore these complex dynamics, and to facilitate discussion about navigating this network of leadership and inspiration.

Room 307

The Etiquette of Higher Education: Resolving Conflict and Establishing Healthy Professional Boundaries

Diane Hawco (BSW, LL.B.) Ombudsperson

We can be faced with many challenges in the academic setting. TA’s are in a unique position, straddling the line between student and professional. Developing healthy boundaries and recognizing opportunities for conflict resolution is essential to being able to deftly navigate some of a TA’s more challenging moments. You may have a friend who is now a student; a student who repeatedly monopolizes your time; or, you may disagree with your supervising professor. In this session we will delve into strategies of conflict resolution, and the establishment and maintenance of healthy professional boundaries.


Professional development hours will be given for attending all but the 'Introduction to the Certificate Program' and the 'Teaching Assistant Enrichment Program (TAEP)' sessions.