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Key Resources for Teaching Assistants (TAs)

Welcome! As a Teaching Assistant (TA), you play an important academic role at Caltech. You will assist students—in group or one-on-one settings—in learning difficult course material. As a facilitator of student learning, you will help guide students in the transition from dependent to independent self-directed learning. Additionally, in your role, you are a representative of Caltech which comes with added responsibilities regarding institution policies.

Here are several key resources to support you during your appointment:

The Teaching Conference Booklet: a resource with general information for all TAs, as well as guidance, thoughts, and feedback on several topics 'by TAs for TAs'. 

The TA Handbook: the official guide to being a Teaching Assistant at Caltech, including an overview of your role as a TA and of teaching & learning in general; guidance on specific TA duties and on receiving and working with feedback; the how-to's of balancing responsibilities in the dual role of student and TA; a look to the future regarding teaching and your CV; information on the Caltech Honor Code, Code of Ethics, and Responsible Conduct of Research

The Teaching Conference Booklet & The TA Handbook also contain important names, numbers, and e-mails for your reference and to keep handy while meeting with students:

Programs and Services for Teaching Assistants (TAs)

Caltech requires all Teaching Assistants (Graduate and Undergraduate) to participate in TA Orientation before teaching. Our annual Fall Teaching Conference also has advanced sessions for returning TAs interested in gaining new perspectives, skills, and knowledge.

  • Graduate TAs: All incoming graduate students participate in TA Orientation during the Fall Teaching Conference, which is integrated into Graduate Orientation Week. See the Graduate Office page on Teaching Assistantships for more details on policies and expectations.
  • Undergraduate TAs: Undergraduate TAs are welcome at the Fall Teaching Conference, or may come to a TA Orientation scheduled near the beginning of each Quarter. See the TA Orientations tab for more information.

Short Course on Course Design for Graduate Students and Post-Docs

The ABCs of Course Design is a short course for graduate students, post-docs and others at Caltech who are hoping to be the instructor of record for a course or interested in course design. Taught by Dr. Jennifer Weaver, Assistant Director of the CTLO, The ABCs of Course Design is a 3-session short course primarily aimed at those who have not taught a course before. She walks through the process of backwards design, including designing learning outcomes, incorporating active learning, developing assessments, inclusive teaching, and building the overall class structure.

Learning Outcomes

This short course is designed to enable participants to:

  • identify active learning approaches and pedagogical strategies that they can use in their course 
  • critically evaluate current assessment strategies to determine whether they meet their specific learning outcomes 
  • articulate the value and benefits of student engagement 
  • devise a course syllabus, content and activity plan for their course

Stay tuned for our next course offering!

Professional Development Workshops

We regularly design and deliver workshops that respond to TA interests and requests from divisions, options, and individual faculty. See Events for information on upcoming workshops open to all. Please contact us to arrange workshops on topics such as those listed below, or to discuss creating new workshops and events:

  • Obtaining and Making Use of Mid-Quarter Feedback
  • Practice (or "Micro") Teaching Workshops
  • Effective Grading Practices
  • Responding to Student Questions, in the Class and/or during Office Hours
  • Responding to Student Writing (in collaboration with the Hixon Writing Center)
  • Teaching Mathematically Complex Material
  • Successful Teaching for International TAs

Individual Consultations

We are available to consult, troubleshoot, or discuss topics such as the following on an individual basis:

  • Interpreting mid-quarter or end-of-quarter teaching evaluations
  • Arranging classroom observation or video recording, for feedback on one's teaching
  • Classroom dynamics and student interactions
  • Statements of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolios
  • Others on request: contact us!

Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET)

CPET is a graduate student group, open to participation by undergraduates, postdocs, and faculty. CPET offers seminars on teaching several times each semester, as well as a certificate of interest in university teaching.