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TA Support | Community
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How can TAs better support Students during Remote Learning?

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When asked to identify one action that teaching assistants (TAs) could take to best support students during remote learning, the highest percentage of students (29.9%) responded with requests for TAs to increase their availability outside of class. Students had a wide range of ideas as to how TAs could increase the educational experience during remote learning which extended well beyond increased availability. Examples of these "best practices" as identified by students are described below.

Increase Availability outside of class (29.9% of responses)

"Hold more office hours online for students to ask questions and respond to students' questions on Canvas or email more often." (undergraduate student, signal processing course)

"Offer teacher's equivalent of office hours or at least extend their willingness to help over email and/or Zoom when needed." (undergraduate student, signals and systems course)

"TAs must be available as much as possible to answer questions, whether that be through hosting office hours on Zoom or being readily available on discussion platforms like Piazza.." (undergraduate student, signal processing course)

"They (TAs) can do the same as the professor, and just in general provide as much help outside of classes through office hours and emails." (undergraduate, linear circuit theory course)

Be Responsive to Students (11.4% of responses)

"Be clear about their office hours and be responsive on email." (undergraduate student, computer aided design course)

"They (TAs) can also answer questions via email quickly." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Maybe a more timely update on lab report grades. So that students know about their mistakes earlier and have time to make changes for the rest of the reports." (undergraduate student, linear circuit theory course)

"… a TA could reply quicker because I tend to have questions later in the week, not during the lab session." (undergraduate student, signals and systems course)

Ask and Facilitate Questions in Class (7.2% of responses)

"TAs can maybe try to get some more discussion out of students during quiz/lab sections because it would definitely help everyone's learning more rather than the TA just talking and then letting the students work." (undergraduate student, signals and systems course)

"Understand the students questions better." (undergraduate student, microelectronic circuits course)

"Providing lots of time for questions. I think the best format for this is with questions the whole class can attempt, engage with, and ask questions on." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Ask questions which test our knowledge of the circuit being designed/built. Whether we have the answer or not, it becomes more clear to the student how robust their knowledge is." (undergraduate student, microelectronic circuits course)

Provide Examples in Class (6.0% of responses)

"I think going over test-style questions in lab section would be really helpful since there are not traditional practice tests for the online platforms." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Reinforcing what the teacher is doing in lecture with either alternate explanations or more examples." (undergraduate student, signals and systems course)

"TA to do practice problems, so we can practice it with them. They can give us practice problems that can help us understand the material more.." (undergraduate student, microelectronic circuits course)

Provide Additional Lab Support (4.8% of responses)

"Help with labs." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Be more active in the class and work students through parts of the lab instead of just talking about it." (undergraduate student, linear circuit theory course)

"Maybe like being available for a bit before lab and after lab to deal with any extra questions related to the lab." (undergraduate student, linear circuit theory course)

Provide Video Recordings (3.0% of responses)

"Record lab and quiz sections for those who might miss them." (undergraduate student, power systems course)

"Record the office hours for international students are unable to attend the office hours due to time zone differences." (undergraduate student, dynamics course)

Adjust Format of Class Sessions (2.6% of responses)

"I felt the online sections are useless and waste of time. I think it would be great if the TA teach the class as they would do in person rather splitting the students into break room and leave them with confusions." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"During lab sessions, it would be helpful for TAs to give summaries of the problems after students are able to discuss problems in groups." (undergraduate student, dynamics course)

"I don't really find breakout rooms productive. People are not very outspoken in their groups because the whole zoom platform is just awkward." (undergraduate student, dynamics course)

"Some of my classes offer a recitation. This recitation is like TA office hours. However, unlike ordinary office hours where the TA waits for students to ask questions, I would appreciate a section where the TA covers material for the current week." (undergraduate student, power systems course)

Prepare More for Class (2.4% of responses)

"Prepare section material more thoroughly; section seems like our TA is looking at everything for the first time, and in some cases the students have a greater understanding of the material (Or so it seems)." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"TA's that prepare extra material for their sections are my favorite TA's." (undergraduate student, linear circuit theory course)

"Be more prepared and rely less on students for driving discussions." (undergraduate student, dynamics course)

Express Care and Understanding (2.3% of responses)

"Reach out to students more so it feels more welcoming to ask for help from the TAs." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Sympathize with students who have technical difficulties. My TA is the best TA and deserves a raise. He stayed five hours for our three hour lab because students continued to experience crashing software." (undergraduate student, microelectronic circuits course)

"Have a more helping attitude." (undergraduate student, microelectronic circuits course)

"Be more approachable. This can be done by making it very clear through body language, and emotion, that they're interested in our success and are willing to help us to get be successful. This is hard if a TA isn't interested, but if they are, being as genuine as possible with students helps us (or me at least) feel like they're approachable, which makes me want to succeed more." (undergraduate student, digital circuits course)

Align with Faculty (2.3% of responses)

"Communicate with professor well so that there isn't conflicting information being provided." (undergraduate student, dynamics course)

"Have more communication with professor about exams so they can better answer questions about exams." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

"Link topics discussed in the lecture with practice problems and the labs. Make sure the relationships between what we learn in lectures and what we do in lab or whats done in the real world are clear." (undergraduate student, introductory circuits course)

Be More Engaging in Class (1.7% of responses)

"More engaging lab sections, lacks a classroom feel." (undergraduate student, signals and systems course)

"Being available to help during section is great… sometimes my TA will unmute everyone in the class if she really wants us to participate and we're being too quiet… I think subtle things like this really go a long way to keeping the students engaged and learning." (undergraduate student, signal processing course)

Which areas of Teaching do Students emphasize in their Responses?

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Almost 45% of student responses asked for changes in how and how often TAs interacted with students out-of-class with an emphasis on more office hours and being more responsive to students. Students also emphasized in-class delivery in their responses with almost 7.2% asking for TAs to facilitate and ask more questions in class and 6.0% asking for TAs to provide additional examples in class.