In many ways, a Teaching Assistant (TA) managing their own section of a course or a recitation/lab component of a larger course isn’t that different from a professor. Both follow the same guiding principles and practices. Perhaps the biggest difference between a TA and a professor is the comfort each feels leading a class. While professors are often comfortable with the authority of leading a class, as a TA, you may be in this position for the first time, so they may not feel at ease in that kind of position. This advice will help feel you more confident in the classroom as a TA.
The Inclusive UC Classroom
One of the most important parts of classroom management is creating an inclusive and equitable space for all students.
Tools/tips to make your classroom open, safe, and inclusive and equitable for all students:
Assess your own conscious and unconscious biases
- Biases may be conscious or unconscious (implicit). They affect the way we perceive, evaluate, or interact with people from different groups.
- Develop an understanding of how your experiences, values, beliefs, and stereotypes may influence (a) your knowledge and understanding of groups that are different from your own, (b) the way you interact with them, and (c) the way you behave in the classroom.
Plan for an inclusive classroom
- Design classroom instruction and materials with a diverse group of students in mind.
- When appropriate, develop a syllabus that explores multiple perspectives on the topic.
Make the classroom accessible to all students
- Create opportunities to get to know your students as individuals (for example, conduct a pre-class survey).
- Invite student participation. Develop ground rules or norms that will specify how students are expected to interact with each other in the classroom.
- Create opportunities for students to interact in class with each other in respectful and meaningful ways.
- Generate a challenging but vibrant learning process that encourages students to develop their creative, critical, and analytical thinking skills.
- Be a role model for students through your own active participation in the learning process.
Confront potential issues of discrimination and manage ‘hot moments’
- Devise personal strategies in advance for managing yourself and the class in such moments.
- Interrupt (blatantly) discriminatory behaviors when they emerge in class.
- Defuse potentially harmful moments by asking students to stop and reflect on the situation.
- Turn potentially hot moments into powerful learning experiences by turning the questions they raise back to the group for discussion.
Framework for Handling Conflict and Disturbances
While open conflict or a disturbance in the class are rare, having tools to handle and mediate conflict can make first-time teachers feel more at ease in the classroom. Below is a three-part framework meant to help address conflict in the classroom.
- Be explicit about your expectations and provide the rationale for your expectations.
- Set ground rules together for classroom behavior.
- Be specific about discussions and groupwork.
- Respect your students.
- Model exactly the kind of behavior you expect from them.
In the Moment
- Remain calm.
- This is business, not personal.
- Your responsibility: ensuring a proper teaching environment.
- Be sure to debrief with students about what happened. How can the class ensure future discussions are more productive?
- Ask students to write a short reflection about the event.