Physics and Astronomy — Teaching Assistant Development

In the Physics and Astronomy department, we recognize that teaching assistants are front-line educators in our program and if we are to improve the learning experience for our undergraduates we must better prepare our graduate student TAs.

Poster (UBC 2015 Science Ed Open House): Physics & Astronomy TA Professional Development Program

Paper (The Physics Teacher, 2013): Teaching Assistant Professional Development by and for TAs

Course-specific TA development:

[2015-2016] Linda Strubbe, Dhaneesh Kumar, Derek Fujimoto and Doug Bonn have been developing a TA training program for TAs who are teaching in the first-year physics labs (PHYS 107, 109, 119). We hold a weekly meeting for TAs with the instructor or head TA to discuss pedagogy, practice and discuss facilitating (e.g., invention activities), discuss likely student issues and how to address, and give TAs practice with the experiment. This is being evaluated using a TA confidence survey and TA weekly reflection surveys, along with observations (protocol being developed by Damien Quentin).

TA workshop and mentoring:

A coordinating team of graduate students in the department developed and regularly run a very successful, one-day interactive workshop, which started in the beginning of the 2007 fall term by former graduate students Mya Warren, Joss Ives, and Sandy Martinuk. The workshop is required for incoming graduate students and available to veterans as well. A system of mentor TAs provides a structure in which senior graduate TAs oversee other graduate students in the first year undergraduate courses and help to develop their teaching skills through a peer-mentorship framework. ‘Head TAs’ are also deployed in each of the large multi-section courses to develop and deliver course-specific training as follow-up throughout the term.

Many excellent resources from the training program can be found at, including a TA Handbook developed by current and past TA training coordinators.

Graduate course in teaching and learning physics & astronomy:

This program is enhanced by a graduate course in pedagogy in Physics & Astronomy: PHYS 520, Teaching Techniques in Physics and Astronomy. This course exposes students to current Physics education research literature and allows them to apply the research to their own teaching by developing activities such as clicker questions or invention activities. In addition, many students complement this course with a directed studies project that allows them to get involved in physics education research in the department.