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Chair, Physics and Astronomy
University of Rochester
August 2006<V<AOutline$V
American Graduate Education
Being a Foreign Teaching Assistant at a US University
65 U5$*Graduate Students at American Universities&+*UAre required to take courses before starting Ph.D. work.
Courses require a large amount of work, for example, science students have to do many problem sets.
Since courses move very fast and are very concentrated you need to begin to study as soon as the class begins
Do course requirements on time (e.g. homework, exams, labs, etc.).
:ZZfZZnZZDZZ Q $$((*,,0074488<<$6%American Courses Use BLectures - More formal presentations (2 or 3 times per week), many students per class
Recitations - Informal meetings and supervised discussion to review homework and answer detailed questions (e.g. 1/week)
Long Homework - emphasis on the application and understanding of the material, NOT repetition of what is in the book (1 problem set per week)
Labs (1/week or 2 weeks) - practical experience
Informal Student Study Groups
Workshops - formal supervised student study groups in place of recitationspWZZyZZZZ0ZZZZKZVxO; $$((/,,004488<<J At the University of Rochester:! Students are expected to speak up
Students and Teachers treat each other more informally
The degree of collaboration between students varies - they often appear to compete with each other
"7c!6b How to Succeed?
Only speak English when you are in the USA (try not to share an office or apartment with members of your original country)
Read or Skim (look for main points in a large amount of material)
Analyze course material to make your own independent judgment. Synthesize (bring together) material from many sources
Schedule use of time to complete assignments by due date
Determine which teachers encourage students to raise questions in class, and which do not. Go to the teachers after class if you have questions
Learn to handle laboratory equipment (do not be afraid of hardware) and learn to use computers
Learn to complete exams on time (start with the easiest problems)
ZZZZzAu8 $$((^,,00A4488<<%W II: Being a Foreign Teaching Assistant: What is Expected of Teaching Assistants?&XW$)*z
Conducting Laboratory Sessions
Conducting Recitations and Review Sessions (or Workshop type recitations)
Grading homework, exams, etc.
Answering questions in class, after class, and during office hours or in help rooms
Preparing quizzes and/or short exams
If faculty need to be out of town, you may need to prepare and give a few lectures or review sessions
Most important: Ask your supervising faculty member what your responsibilities are. E.g. if they include grading homework -> the graded homework must be returned to students in the following week s recitations.. <ZgZZIS $$$((,,e004488}<<F
<&vTeaching US undergraduates is very different. US Undergraduates are less independent and sometimes less motivated.Fw/C,-'8You will be surprised by:
The students level of preparation
The students level of motivation
The students general behavior
The prejudices of some students
The students expectation of teachers
Language difficulties
Non-Verbal communication
Student complaints, excuses, & cheating
$$((,,004488<<' $$((')1. US Undergraduate Level of preparation.6*(US freshman undergraduates are about 1 year behind foreign educated undergraduates. However, within 1 to 2 years, they catch up.
Once lower level courses are completed, university courses in the USA are more demanding than in other countries.
Statistically only 1/2 of all US Freshmen graduate (UR has a higher graduation rate).
US undergraduates tend to be less knowledgeable about world affairs, politics, etc.
TA's should aim at the average student (learn about the level of preparation of your students, which may vary by major and field of study)Do not assume what they should know, but find out what they do know.
ZZZrZZVZZ'ZZZqU U$$((,,E004488<<;&2. Level of Motivation.&There is a large variation in the motivation and interest of US undergraduates,
some are very serious
some seem more interested in socializing
Note that Rochester is known as a serious academic school -not a party school
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#) $$((M,,004488<<<'3. Student general behaviorIt is generally informal
Dress
Informal treatment of teachers
Convey of respect
Note that informality does not mean lack of respect on the part of the undergraduates
ZZZZZZZZWZZZZZZ $$((,,U004488<<=(4. Some students are prejudiced& Little previous interactions with people from other countries
Advanced vs. less developed
Some students may think that foreigners are superior (old versus new cultures)
N>ZZZZOZZZZZZZ=N $$((,,0044,H`>);5. Undergraduate student expectations of teachers and TA's(<;%$Spoon feeding
Detailed explanations
Lots of examples
To be friendly and helpful
To be treated as a person
To be entertained, humorous (complaints about "monotonous voice", "boring lectures")
Honesty, TA's are expected to admit that they do not know, or they do know an answer to a question.
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$$T((,,c004488<<?*6. Language Problems &Many undergraduates are not used to foreign accents, they get a mental block.
Try to improve your English (language tapes, TV).
Paraphrase -seek student help (humor).
Repeat student questions to make sure that you correctly understood them.
Ask your recitation to be video taped (arrange with dept. graduate office) so you can review yourself on tape.
If you speak too fast, slow down (write reminders in your notes to slow down).
ZZM1&In $$N((,,00@+7. Non Verbal Communications&Clothing
Location of teacher
Use of hands, head and face
Volume of speech
Space between people (no touching)
Direct eye contact
ZZZZZZZZ#ZZZZZ $$((,,"004488<<A,(8. Student complaints, excuses, cheating&)(NUse common sense
Students expect fairness
Learn department policies
Set up clear policies in the first meeting
Talk to the professor about any problems
Get general help from
Professor
Other TA's
Talk to Undergraduates
Take English classes (There is a special UR class offered for foreign TA's)
American Friends
Video Taping Services
ZZZZ*( $$((,,00 4488
<<K $$B-OA Few Hints from Cognitive Psychology and Recent Studies in Science Education$POMBShort term memory can only hold a few concepts (break up problems into small pieces).
Need several paths to access long term memory (use several very different examples which are different from the book or lecture).
Stage 0 Expert versus Novice approach to problem solving. (How did you figure out that one should use energy conservation in this problem).
Wait time technique allow students time to speak up.
VZZZZZU $$((!,,0044C.NMore Hints from Cognitive Psychology and Recent Studies in Science Education$ONL"Reduce risk for students to speak in class (what would you guess is the answer)
Look at teaching textbooks for common misconceptions (book by Aarons, page 4).
Hawthorne effect Be caring and supportive of your students, keep trying new things.
<------THE END ----->
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