P1032: Class-style TA training in Penn State’s general chemistry labs
Penn State has developed a number of approaches to training, supervising, and coaching TAs in our general chemistry lab. The most important component is an accelerated version of the lab course that is taught in the week or two before the start of each semester. A top TA from the previous year is hired to serve as a TA for this class. The new TAs are the students. They complete all of the experiments for a grade under the same conditions as the students. The experienced TA models all of the roles of a TA: prelab talks, lab management, and grading. The new TAs observe and experience all of these things under the dynamic conditions of a real class. All of the typical problems occur – some students come late and unprepared, some don’t wear their eye protection, some are unhappy about their grades, some drop their samples on the floor, etc. All of these matters are handled in a similar way to how they are handled with undergraduate students. At the end of this class awards are given to top performers, and those below minimum standards are reassigned to non-teaching duties. The TA Trainers then become “Section Supervisors”, and are involved with observing and coaching TAs throughout the semester. This system has been in place for over 20 years and it works well. Details will be presented.