The Teaching Commons at York University celebrated the accomplishments of 24 Teaching Assistants (TAs) during a special ceremony Dec. 4.
The 2014-2015 cohort of TAs who have either completed or are in the process of completing the TA Certificate in Teaching (TACT) course were recognized for their dedication to teaching and learning at York. “Record of Completion” certificates were presented to the TAs who attended at least five events hosted by the Teaching Commons.
“The Record of Completion (RoC) represents a significant engagement by TAs in their professional development as teachers at York,” says Celia Popovic, director of the Teaching Commons. “The events are entirely optional, attendance is therefore evidence of personal commitment by the graduate students. We provide a certificate as we want to recognize this commitment. Since demand for the TA Certificate in Teaching course is high we require students to have a RoC as a prerequisite for enrolment.
“We know from participant feedback that they find the workshops helpful in focusing their efforts in the classroom,” adds Popovic. “This results in a win for everyone concerned: the Teaching Commons reaches TAs interested in improving their teaching, TAs receive support for their teaching and a physical reward in the form of a certificate, and the undergraduate students taught by the TAs receive an enhanced learning experience.”
Carolyn Carter is a Master’s student in Socio-Legal Studies. She has completed 13 courses in the Teaching Commons and is one of its star students. Carter is a teaching assistant for a second-year course in the Law and Society Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.
“My experience with the Teaching Commons has been very good,” she says. “When I started to work as a teaching assistant, I was very nervous and did not know what to do, how to conduct myself in the classroom, how to handle conflict if one should arise, even though I have experience in conflict resolution. So I found that attending the workshops really helped me to be a better TA. “
She remembers attending one of the workshops where the teaching assistants learned how to teach students the advanced reading and writing skills necessary to succeed in higher education. “I was amazed to learn that many students did not know how to read their textbooks in an effective way, so they weren’t reading their textbooks because they weren’t sure how to read their textbooks,” says Carter. “They felt the reading would be dry, which is true, but without a proper approach they did not do the reading.”
After attending the Teaching Commons workshop, Carter tried out some of the exercises she learned with the students in her tutorial groups. “I did the reading exercise with the students and I found in the weeks following that most of the students would show up having read at least some of the material, so the discussions were better and their questions were better. Even their written assignments were better because of the way they explained the material. There was an immediate benefit for the students and for me, it was very rewarding,” says Carter.
She found the marking and grading workshop to be one of the best she’s ever experienced and the conflict resolution workshop was valuable because it helped alleviate conflict in the classroom.
“I discovered through this experience that I am very fond of teaching,” she says.
A mature student, Carter says she really understands her students as she is a recent grad after returning to university following 28 years away from the classroom. She is working towards completing her Master’s in August 2015. Her research is focused on the unequal treatment of black women in the legal system and in criminal courts in particular.
For more on the workshops and the TACT Program, visit the Teaching Commons website.