Resources for Teaching Assistants

Caroline Marvin

Director of Instruction and Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for the Neuroscience & Behavior major in the Psychology Department. Oversees TA appointments, mentors and advises the TAs, and can generally answer any TA-related question.

Kathe Blydenburgh

Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant for the Psychology Department. Manager of curriculum-related web pages for the Psychology Department, keeper of keys and microphones, and general knower of things you might need to know. If she can't answer your question or get you the item you need, she'll find you someone who can.

Elizabeth Walters

Will be able to lend you one of the department projectors, take requests for copies, and help you find any particular person you're looking for. Find her at the reception desk in 406.

Louis Waweru

Systems Coordinator for the Psychology department, and another person who can help you with problems related to the Psych servers or the technology in 200B/C.

Psych Department Lab TAs

This year our Lab TAs are Alangoya Tezel, Kaira Villanueva, and Zoey Chopra. You'll likely run into at least one of them during their Open Lab Hours. They can help you get things set up in 200B/C, and help troubleshoot issues with the lab computers or podiums.

Grad TAs should plan to spend an average of 12-15 hours per week on a regular (non-lab) TAship, although some weeks will be lighter and some heavier. Time you put in during course planning and preparation before the term begins will be counted in the hours expected of you.

Full-time undergraduate/post-bac TAs are paid for 175 hours per term, which works out to an average of 11-12 hours per week over 15 weeks.

Here's what you might be asked to do (or, in some cases, what you should ask if you ought to be doing), organized roughly chronologically:

Support your instructor before the semester starts.

  • Attend a planning meeting before classes start (you may have to ask to schedule one).
  • Ask if there's anything you can do to help—review the syllabus, post things to CourseWorks, get materials copied, textbooks put on reserve in the library, etc.

Attend every lecture, pay attention, and be ready to help.

  • Know what kind of setup your instructor needs, and how to help them (see Classrooms, below).
  • Show up 10 minutes early, and be available to stay after for a few minutes if needed.
  • Keep an eye out for issues: open/shut the classroom doors or windows, raise/lower the blinds, let your instructor know if they can't be heard in the back, look for raised hands your instructor might not see, etc.
  • Pay attention to the material so you can answer student questions (and write good exam questions).
  • If you have to miss a class, let your instructor know well ahead of time.

Do all the assigned readings.

Help keep the CourseWorks site updated and running smoothly.

  • Posting Announcements
  • Uploading readings and lecture slides in Files & Resources
  • Editing and grading Assignments
  • Uploading grades from excel to Gradebook; downloading grades to excel spreadsheet
  • Managing Discussion Boards
  • Test & Quiz section for mid-term feedback on your TAing
  • Updating and uploading new copies of the syllabus to Files & Resources (note: if your syllabus changes, please send a copy to Kathe Blydenburgh as well).

Attend weekly TA meetings.

  • At minimum, check in with the instructor and other TAs, let the team know about any issues that have come up. How have you been answering common student questions? How much has each TA been working? Will you have to miss an upcoming class?
  • What is coming up that you should all be preparing for?
  • What can you do this week to help the prof?
  • Coordinate plans for grading assignments/exams.

Hold weekly office hours.

  • 2 posted hours per week
  • Try to make sure that the times of everyone's office hours are spread across the week as much as possible, and also try to offer a variety of different times of day.

Help with exam and assignment grading (and, in some classes, writing).

  • Ask your instructor if they want you to submit questions. If so, they'll likely either work with you to hone them, or they'll use your submissions as a jumping-off point to write their own test.
  • Set aside much more time for grading than you think you'll need.
  • Check in with the other TAs to make sure you're grading consistently (if you're grading the same questions or assignments).
  • For exams: leave plenty of time to put pages back together, add up the scores, double-check your addition, and enter everything into the gradebook.
  • For assignments: leave time to compare average grades from each TA, and adjust if someone is consistently grading more leniently or harshly.

Help proctor exams.

Plan and hold review sessions.

  • Reserve a room (usually 200B/C)
  • Solicit student questions ahead of time, prepare slides (the best review sessions don't just re-use the professor's slides—they offer another perspective on the same material).
  • Run the review session, giving students as much info as possible without revealing what's on the exam or not (this can be a fine line).
  • Post the review slides to CourseWorks

(Optional) Give a guest lecture.

If you want to do this, consult with your professor to see if that's an option. (This is more common among grad TAs.)

(Only for grad TAs with "hard" TAships) Lead lab sections.

Getting A/V equipment 

(Microphones, dongles, pointers, audio recorder, etc.):
See Kathe in 406 to check out any technology that your classroom doesn't have. Make sure to return it to her promptly.

Obtaining course supplies:

Send list of required course supplies to Maria Dilbert.

Getting copies made:

  • See the receptionist in 406. 
  • Blank forms are on the wall behind the copier in 406.
  • Please give 24 hours' notice for large classes or during high volume times (e.g., midterms/finals)
  • For jobs you want to do yourself, there is a copier available in room 404C, for which you need to obtain a combination. 

Scanning class resources:

There are scanners in 200B/C and in the TA office (354 Schermerhorn). You can also use the copier/scanner in 404C; it doesn't require a code for scanning.

Getting access to CourseWorks:

Either your instructor or Kathe can give you access. You should be listed as a TA or Enhanced TA, not as an instructor.

Reserving a slot for your office hours in the TA office (now 354 Schermerhorn, backup office in 318C Schermerhorn):

  • Go to this link to see the schedule and make reservations. You should get a confirmation email within 24 hours; if you don't, email the Undergraduate Curriculum Assistant to help you get confirmation.
  • Get a key to 354 from 406 Schermerhorn. Please see your "Access Info" cards for the code to 318C Schermerhorn.
  • You can also request 200B/C for office hours, but class-related requests (e.g., overflow seating for exams, review sessions, etc.) have priority and could bump you.

Testing, grading, and cheating

As a TA, you have a lot of control over students' grades. You'll also likely be the first to notice if one of your students has turned in work that doesn't seem to be his or her own, or is trying to cheat on an exam. These situations are fortunately rare, but you should know what to do if they do come up

Grading fairly:
  • Try to use blind grading (have students put their names only on cover sheets of exams and assignments, and UNIs or a code number on all other pages).
  • When possible, divide up exam questions so that the same TA grades the same questions on every exam, to ensure fairness.
  • Have the professor and other TAs review your grading on both high and low papers.
  • Mark written work so that students understand why they got the score they did.
  • Return assignments quickly.
Preventing plagiarism and cheating:
  • Communicate standards clearly. Does your instructor's syllabus mention expectations for academic integrity? If not, each assignment should.
  • Know the general expectation for CU undergrads: Columbia University Undergraduate Guide to Academic Integrity.
  • Be aware of methods of cheating, and create environment to discourage it:
    • Create multiple copies of exams, with question order (or answer choices) scrambled.
    • If possible, have students sit every other seat (may need to reserve 200B/C as overflow rooms).
    • Be very careful with electronic copies of exams or drafts of exam questions.
    • Proctor actively. You don't have to hover over students, but be alert, and if possible have at least one TA near the back of the room as well as in the front. This also allows you to swoop in quickly if students have questions.

Dealing with difficult situations:

Every TA team will have to deal with some unexpected or uncomfortable situations. Generally, you can always refer anything you don't know how to deal with along to your instructor, but here are some guidelines that are good for you to know:

Dealing with requests for extensions and make-ups:

Refer these requests to the instructor; it's their call unless they have explicitly let you know you can make those decisions (this is typically only true for lab TAs).

Dealing with disturbed/distraught students:
  • Contact your professor immediately.
  • If professor not available, contact Katherine Fox-Glassman, Caroline Marvin, or another Program Advisor
  • If they are not available, contact:
  • If you need to find out who the student's advising dean (CC/GS) is, call the Berick Center for Student Advising (212-854-6379).
  • Health or mental health emergency contacts:
    • General medical concerns: 212-854-2284 (after hours: 212-854-9797)
    • Mental health concerns: 212-854-2878 (after hours: same number)
    • If a student appears to be in immediate danger, call Public Safety (212-854-5555) or dial 911.
    • If a student is in need of emergency medical or mental health care and CPS is not open or you cannot reach someone, you can bring the student to the Emergency Room at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital (113th St. and Amsterdam).
    • Counseling & Psychological Services (CPS) is in Lerner Hall, floor 5W, and offers afternoon/evening drop-in hours in various locations around campus.
  • General info on what to do in different types of emergency
How to handle dual relationships:
  • You will almost certainly have at least one student who is your friend, roommate, labmate, RA, blood relative, barista, or who has some other relationship with you outside the classroom.
    • Let your professor know about any of these dual relationships.
    • For any subjectively graded assignments, make sure you don't grade work from anyone with whom you have a dual relationship.
  • Treat all students equally; don't do for one what you wouldn't do for all.
  • You may not offer any paid tutoring for students in the course you're TAing for.
  • Romantic or sexual relationships with students are prohibited. Read the new CU policy

 

Electronic classroom training (501, 614)

  • Please be sure that you understand how to use the touch panels before the first day of class.

Reporting classroom problems

  • For any major/urgent problems:
    • Call the special number posted by classroom phone and on podium: 212-854-3633.
    • Alert the next classes, and email erooms@columbia.comKathe Blydenburgh and Caroline with a summary of the problem.
  • For routine maintenance problems, report them to classrooms@columbia.edu and to Joanna.
  • For any problems with 200B/C, contact Louis, and/or the Lab TA on duty.

200B and 200C use, training, and access

  • All grad students should have swipe access; other TAs may request access.
    • Test card on both doors. If you don't get solid green light, report to Kathe.
    • The outer door and bathroom have combinations; be sure to write those down.
  • To reserve room for a review session or office hours:
    • Check event calendar for availability
      • NOTE: In case classes have not yet been added to the 200b/c event calendar, check the relevant week-at-a-glance page to see what is meeting there before requesting reservations. 
    • Click the big + sign to submit a new event.
    • For larger groups, you can reserve an electronic classroom (allow 2 weeks notice).
  • Top priority for our own instructional lab rooms is the smooth functioning of scheduled classes and lab sections.
    • Please read and follow the Lab Guidelines.
    • Before using the e-podium or video projector, arrange for training with Louis Waweru, a Lab TA during Open Lab Hours, or Ingrid Richter.

Macs in 200B/C

  • 200B/C guidelines:
    • Computers get wiped occasionally; if there are files you and your students need to keep all semester, contact Ingrid for access to the Orange server.
    • For software installation, contact Louis.
    • Don't shut down computers.
    • For help sharing files and folders, contact Louis or Ingrid.
    • No food or beverages at computer stations; remove food garbage to hallway.
    • Erase whiteboards after use.
    • You're responsible for locking up the room after you, so don't let anyone stay there after you leave.

CourseWorks

All Psychology courses switched to Canvas, a new course management system in Fall 2017. Some Psychology faculty are still learning how to make the best use of this new system, and many instructors haven't had the opportunity to explore the new tools and widgets that Canvas offers. To be in a position to help your professor get the most out of your CourseWorks (Canvas) site, you will need to have access to the course website and will need to learn how to make good use of CourseWorks.

We've put together a guide to Canvas in the Faculty Resources section, but please let Caroline or Kathe know if you have any additional questions or issues. 
 

How to arrange for access: 

Ask the professor to set up access for you, following the steps outlined below. It will save time if the professor has a UNI for each TA before following the steps outlined on the CTL Knowledge Base site

 

How to learn CourseWorks (Canvas):

Desk Copies of Textbooks:

Teaching Assistants receive free copies of all required reading materials. These materials should be available at least a week before the course begins. 
HOW: Publishing houses usually provide desk copies of textbooks; contact the textbook publisher to find out what the procedure is and then enlist the assistance of the professor (e.g., if an email from the professor is required). Teaching assistants should not be asked to pay for any course materials.

Library:

As a student officer, TAs are provided with a full semester loan period for most materials. For full details, read about Student Officer Borrowing Privileges on LibraryWeb. 
HOW: It is no longer necessary to obtain a letter from the Psychology Department administrator attesting to your status. Your own records on administrative systems such as SSOL and DIA should be sufficient to enable you to obtain a teaching Officer ID card from the ID center.

Podium Training in Electronic Classroom:

Teaching Assistants need to know how to operate all equipment that the professor will need (computer, electronic podium, lights, microphone, and/or iclickers) in their classroom. 

HOW: For our own 200b/c Schermerhorn, see below. For Registrar-controlled rooms such as 614 and 501 Schermerhorn, complete the online tutorial and then practice in the classroom with every device, computer application, and kind of media that will be used, especially those needed during the first week. 614 TAs should also arrange with Kathe Blydenburgh for microphone and closet access before classroom training. 

200 b/c Access and Training:

Teaching Assistants may use 200 b/c for review sessions, scanning, and other course-related computer work. All psychology graduate students should have swipe access using their CU ID cards. Undergraduate and postbac TAs may request access.*

HOW: Send an email to Kathe Blydenburgh, and cc Caroline Marvin. Include your UNI and the name and number of the course for which you are TAing. In requesting this access, you agree to read and to abide by the Lab Use Guidelines. To arrange for training in 200b/c please contact Louis Waweru.

*Note: requesting access means you’re able to get into the rooms, but in order to reserve the room for a review session or other sole use you will need to submit a room reservation request

Copying:

Copying handouts, exams, transparencies, articles for reserve.

  1. Do-it-yourself jobs using the 4th floor copy machine in 414. [Room combination will be provided at TA Orientation.] 
    HOW: see the Administrative Assistant or Kathe Blydenburgh in 406 to sign out copy card.
  2. Copies to be done by the 406 staff (e.g., exams) usually require 24-hour notice. 
    HOW: complete a request form available in 406 and leave it, along with your originals, in the specially marked box there. (Give exams directly to the Psych Department's Administrative Assistant.)
  3. Village Copier for large jobs except exams. 
    HOW: get authorization form from the Psych Department's Administrative Assistant or Kathe Blydenburgh.

Purpose:

To facilitate automatic scoring and item analysis of multiple-choice tests. Can also be used for research purposes.

Location:

354 Schermerhorn Hall

Using the Scantron:

a) First time users might benefit by watching this brief video clip:

http://www.schooltube.com/video/b1d37dc2c8cb00edfaa4/

The video will provide you with essential information regarding:

  • Form options (what type of form is best for your exam?)
  • Creating the scoring key
  • Scoring options (raw scores vs. % correct; adding “subjective” scores like scores from essays or short answer responses)
  • Error marking options (simple mark [—] vs. correct answer [A])
  • Item analysis (% of students getting a particular question correct/incorrect à essential for recognizing scoring key errors and ambiguous questions)
  • Dealing with scoring errors (automatic remarking)

b) Reminders about how to use the Scantron will also be found on a laminated instruction card next to the machine.

After referring to the instruction card, please return it to its proper place so it is there for the next person.

Forms:

A variety of forms are available, including some that have essay, matching and short answer sections, in addition to the standard multiple-choice question. “Low visibility” forms are available to discourage cheating from “wandering eyes.” “Large format” forms are available for students with visual or motor disabilities.

Please look carefully at the available forms (in 354) prior to creating the exam in order to determine your options, as well as if there are enough forms of that type for your course (see important note below).

Scheduling:

It is important to ensure security of the “grading environment.” Therefore, the Scantron should not be used for grading exams at the same time as office hours are being held in 354. To avoid overlap with scheduled TA office hours, please consult the scheduling website and reserve a previously unscheduled time to use this room.

Important:

When you are submitting your reservation, please

  • Include the type of form (e.g., 882-E-LOVAS) and the number of forms that you are using (e.g., 100).
  • Make sure there are that # forms available, and that at least 100 forms remain. If either condition is not met, please contact Maria Dilbert (mdd2@columbia.edu)
  • It is essential to track how many forms we have to avoid shortages of popular forms.

Problems with Scantron:

If you encounter problems using the machine (e.g., paper jams) please contact Elizabeth Santana and Maria Dilbert in the dept. office immediately. Most problems can be handled on-site, but more serious problems might require that the machine be returned to the company for repair. So, please alert Liz and Maria of any problems in a timely manner. Please do not just leave the Scantron in a broken state for the next person to discover!