TA Development

I. Introduction

The German Department offers graduate students exceptional opportunities to develop their teaching abilities in its exemplary, nationally recognized curriculum, Developing Multiple Literacies. The curriculum carefully integrates language and content instruction in unique ways. Our thoughtfully designed TA development program enables students to teach on all levels of the undergraduate curriculum, including the most advanced undergraduate courses. Graduate students also participate regularly in collaborative projects of materials development and curricular revisions where they translate their knowledge of second language acquisition research into the programmatic realities of curriculum construction and pedagogy.

The Department's content-based curriculum inherently presents a particular focus for TAs. The overall TA program has a much more comprehensive aim of fostering classroom teachers as independent and reflective decision makers and of the learners as autonomous participants.

The following statement describes the program and offers details about the contributions and responsibilities by all members of the department who assure its success, graduate TAs, faculty members, and the Director of Curriculum.

II. Mentored TA Development

Mentored TA development is an individually tailored program which students devise in collaboration with their advisor, the Director of Curriculum, and the Chair of the Department. In addition to two required courses dealing with language pedagogy, specific assignments reflect the nature and level of students' knowledge about instructed second language learning and teaching, previous teaching experience, language competence, and career interests. They are chosen from the following: extensive class observation at various instructional levels; paired teaching; mentored teaching; independent teaching at Levels I - III; development and teaching of a Level IV course; RA-ship with the Director of Curriculum. Students document their development as teachers in a Teaching Portfolio (separate instructions) which they present to the faculty toward the end of their studies.

  • Extensive class observation allows students to familiarize themselves with all instructional levels. Begun in conjunction with the basic Methods class, it takes various forms, e.g., in-depth observation of specific pedagogical interventions; followed by class observation write-ups; observation of one particular class over an extended period of time (2-3) weeks; observation of all sequenced course levels within one semester, with summative and/or focused write-ups.
  • Paired teaching matches an experienced TA volunteer with a new TA for the period of a semester in order to begin developing the practice of reflective teaching through a dialogue about various aspects of teaching and learning.
  • Mentored teaching is a one-semester opportunity in which a faculty member and a TA jointly

attend to all aspects of syllabus development, materials selection, lesson planning, and assessment procedures, and subsequently discuss the various pedagogical choices and their consequences for learning. As the semester progresses the TA increasingly takes on sole responsibility for certain aspects of the course. Even more extensively than with paired teaching, a mentored teaching relationship affords the opportunity for graduate students to become teachers who are not beholden to any particular methodological dictums but make informed and prudent pedagogical choices on the basis of careful and knowledgeable observation of student learning.

As stated before, an individual TA's route within this mentored sequence is mapped out in close coordination between student, advisor, Director of Curriculum and Department Chair. Nevertheless two broad tracks can be identified:

A. Incoming students without previous teaching experience:
  • Semester 1: basic Methods course; clustered observations with write-ups as agreed upon; begin teaching portfolio.
  • Semester 2: Paired teaching with experienced TA OR extensive observation OR mentored teaching at Levels I - III; continue portfolio development.
  • Semester 3: Independent supervised teaching with class visitations and feedback by Director of Curriculum and faculty.
  • Semester 4 and subsequent semesters: independent teaching with gradually reduced observations; advanced Methods course; extended class visits in Level IV and V courses; RA-ship with Director of Curriculum; proposal of a level IV course and teaching the course; continue portfolio development and prepare for presentation to the faculty.
B. Incoming students with previous teaching experience:
  • Semester 1: basic Methods course; clustered observations with write-ups as agreed upon; begin teaching portfolio.
  • Semester 2: Paired teaching with experienced TA OR mentored teaching at Levels I - III OR second course in language pedagogy with extensive observations; independent teaching with multiple class visits and feedback by Director of Curriculum and faculty; continue portfolio development.
  • Semester 3 and subsequent semesters: independent teaching with gradually reduced observations; advanced Methods course; extended class visits in Level IV and V courses; being mentored in a level IV and V course; RA-ship with the Director of Curriculum; proposal of a level IV course and teaching the course; continue portfolio development and prepare for presentation to the faculty.

Graduate students who have the requisite background in teaching upper level sequenced courses may submit a proposal for a Level IV course for consideration by the Faculty, thereby making an important contribution to the quality of the program. As for all approved courses, actual teaching assignments are made in response to the Department's curricular needs.

III. The Role of the Faculty

All faculty share the responsibility for assuring the success of the mentored TA development and participate in the following ways:

  1. Level Coordination of Levels I - III. A faculty member teaching at one of these levels takes responsibility for coordinating all work pertaining to courses at this level, intensive and non-intensive courses. Specifically this involves all coordination meetings prior to the beginning of the semester, calling and coordinating meetings as necessary during the semester, and conducting a post-semester follow-up meeting which assesses the semester and makes decisions regarding any adjustments that should be made for the next time the course will be taught. The Level coordinator informs the Director of Curriculum about administrative needs for level courses; all administrative needs for courses (book orders, copying of packets, etc.) are handled by the Director of Curriculum. In all cases, the Director of Curriculum and Level Coordinator cooperate closely.
  2. As outlined above, faculty take on mentored teaching assignments. Specific assignments are determined in close coordination with the Director of Curriculum and the Department Chair in order to assure both the quality of the entire undergraduate program and of graduate students' teacher development. Due to the unusual time commitment entailed in a mentoring relationship, it is understood that an individual faculty member can take on this role only once during an academic year. Mentoring at Levels I - III is particularly important, though mentoring opportunities are also encouraged for Level IV and V courses and, on occasion, for courses taught in English.
  3. Class visits. Faculty will observe and provide feedback on classes taught at all levels, by graduate TAs and colleagues. Each faculty member will at least observe two graduate students per semester. This is an important contribution to the quality and coherence of the curriculum.
  4. Faculty development. All members of the Department's teaching staff, faculty and graduate students, participate in and contribute to departmental curriculum and pedagogy workshops as these are planned by the Director of Curriculum and/or Chair. They are encouraged to suggest topics for these workshops.
  5. Course development. Developing new and updating existing courses in line with the major goals of specific levels of instruction and the curriculum as a whole are important contributions the faculty make to the quality of the program.

IV. The Role of the Director of Curriculum

The Director of Curriculum's primary responsibilities lie with assuring continued curricular and pedagogical coherence, particularly at levels I - III, and with overseeing, coordinating, and providing the necessary administrative support aspects relating to teaching for graduate student TA development and for faculty Level coordination.

To accomplish this task the Director of Curriculum works closely with the Department Chair and with faculty who serve as Level Coordinators and as mentor teachers. In particular, the Director of Curriculum attends to the following components of the curriculum and the mentored TA sequence:

  1. Graduate Student Orientation. The Director of Curriculum provides a comprehensive introduction to the undergraduate curriculum and the Department's mentored TA training program for all new graduate students at the departmental Graduate Orientation at the beginning of the academic year.
  2. The Director of Curriculum's teaching responsibilities normally include teaching the basic Methods class and, as appropriate, teaching and potentially coordinating a level in the sequenced courses (Levels I - III).
  3. The Director of Curriculum contributes to graduate student pedagogical development through regular class visits and appropriate feedback.
  4. The Director of Curriculum supports the faculty's contributions to TA development by preparing guidelines for paired teaching, mentored teaching, and class observations and feedback, and by coordinating these activities from semester to semester.
  5. The Director of Curriculum monitors coherence in the curriculum through scheduling departmental curriculum workshops, particularly at the beginning and end of the academic year, and through regular contact with and attendance of meetings of faculty teaching at different levels. As required, he/she updates the faculty on curricular needs and materials development in the Department.
  6. The Director of Curriculum assures program quality through developing placement and summative assessment instruments and reporting on these matters to the faculty as appropriate. The Director of Curriculum is responsible for administering, with the help of other faculty, placement exams at the beginning of the semesters.
  7. The Director of Curriculum regularly works with TAs and advisors to assure progress in students' development of their teaching portfolios.
  8. The Director of Curriculum develops and organizes curricular workshops as necessary for the continuing development of the undergraduate curriculum and graduate TA training.