P309: Trainees as trainers: Principles and lessons of training meetings driven by teaching assistants
Developing content knowledge, familiarity with laboratory equipment, and sound pedagogy in teaching assistants for the general chemistry laboratory can be a daunting task. In our experience, the typical format of weekly meetings with teaching assistants in which faculty essentially lecture on upcoming experiments results in unsatisfactory gains in all three of these areas. Imagining that teaching assistants would benefit most from a meeting that mirrors the actual lab period, we have designed and implemented an active format for weekly meetings. The new format places teaching assistants in the roles of leader, facilitator, and student: leaders moderate a pre-lab discussion, and students complete “mini-experiments” as facilitators observe, guide, and question them. Upon completion of the mini-experiments, teaching assistants and faculty engage in a discussion that exposes conceptual and experimental difficulties encountered by the teaching assistants. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this format more effectively prepares teaching assistants for lab than more passive formats. We have found that teaching assistants are more readily able to predict students’ difficulties and guide them through obstacles in the laboratory.