TA Update: Collaboration is Key

On Wednesday, I taught my first lesson of the semester. Whereas last fall I was TA-ing in a freshman course, this semester I’m in a sophomore seminar. For this lesson, I worked with my fellow TA (we’re in the same class this time around) to plan about an hour’s worth of content.


Our First Plan

Originally, when we started thinking about what we’d like to do, we planned to do a game on evaluating sources for research. We were going to create a slide deck with various sources, split the class into two teams, and run a competition. However, we thought of a few problems with this:

  • What if technology was disagreeable that day? It’d happened before.
  • What if a slide isn’t sufficient space to share enough information for students to determine a source’s value?
  • What if the students didn’t know how to evaluate sources yet?

The last question was the big issue–and it prompted our revision of our lesson plan.

Our Second Plan

We put together a lesson plan that culminated in the game we intended to run, with some exercises first to allow the students to learn how to evaluate sources–and then practice. The problem was that we still felt like something was missing, our game still faced the potential issues of technology and space allowance, and now we were running into the second half of the class.

So, we emailed the professor we’re working with this term. She didn’t mind us taking more time, but as we thought about our plans, we discovered what was missing: how to incorporate sources.

After all, that goes hand-in-hand with evaluating sources. We discussed this with the professor, and came up with a new plan.

Our Third Plan

On Monday, the professor taught APA in-text citations. This was a great lead-in to our Wednesday plans. I taught evaluating sources (using the CRAAP method), and my fellow TA taught the students how to concoct an APA reference listing.

The two lessons worked well together, and we didn’t have to worry about the concerns I listed above. Overall, planning for this took about a week, and that includes both my fellow TA and I creating handouts and reviewing each other’s. It also included addressing printing concerns.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed working on this lesson together. It was great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth, and this reiterated for me something I had already learned (but reinforcement in this is always good): Even when teaching alone, it’s a great idea to share lesson plans, handouts, readings, assignments, rubrics…every piece that makes up the puzzle that is a course.

Great things can come of brainstorming. If we’d stuck with our first plan, it might have been fun and the students would have been able to test the knowledge that they came into class with…but that didn’t involve us actually teaching.

Our second plan was better in that regard, but it still needed some more oomph to go from abstract ideas to practical application in the sense that the students will have to create an annotated bibliography before they write their research papers. Those will involve APA references and evaluating sources.

We were able to get the students involved, teach them valuable, actionable information, and tie it in to their semester-long projects–all because we collaborated.