Connect Discussion To Lecture


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Communication is Key

As a TA, you may be responsible for everything from assisting during lectures, to leading discussion sections, to grading course assignments and exams, to assisting with the management of the course, to acting as a liaison between students and the professor. It is essential for you to have a good working relationship and good communication with your professor (and other TA's in the course) throughout the semester so you can carry out those goals as effectively as possible.

Ask for help. Ask the professor if you need clarification about an area you are expected to cover in discussion. Ask other TA's what they're presenting and how they plan to tie it in with lecture.

Check in regularly. Even if your professor doesn't have regularly-scheduled TA meetings, check in with him/her every so often to make sure you're getting the appropriate coursework to the students during your discussions.

For the Discussion Section

A big part of the TA's responsibility is to "fill in" the gaps left out during lecture, to flesh out course material and ensure that students understand what was gone over in lecture, or to address new information that is best presented in a more interactive environment. This requires that you have a comfortable understanding of the course material BEFORE you walk in to your discussion section - if you expect your students to be prepared and read before class, you must also be prepared.

Attend Lectures!!! This may seem like a "no-brainer," but it can be easy to skip because you've TA'd for the class before, or because you feel confident with the information. Being in lecture sets a good example for your students, and helps you know what the professor expects you to cover in discussion.

  • Often, professors will simply say, "That's something you'll go over in discussion," making it important that you know what those things are so you're not blindsided when the question comes up in class.

Be prepared. Do your own lesson plans and have a variety of ideas how you might help students learn the information. Plan for different learning styles, but be willing to be flexible as discussion goes on.

Keep it Interesting

Don't be repetitive. Discussion is not just a format to repeat what was gone over in lecture. It's the opportunity to reinforce important themes, to challenge preexisting ideas, and to introduce new concepts. Making coursework engaging for your students can help get them excited about the class - even lectures!

Challenge yourself. If you ask your students to figure out "why does something matter," ask yourself the same questions prior to the discussion session. This will help you facilitate discussion, and can help you engage your students in their learning experience.

Additional Resources

Check out the "Teaching and Learning" page at the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) website.

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