Leading A Discussion Session

Following is a simple to-do list designed to help you prepare for a successful first discussion session. Although we have tried to make the list as detailed as possible, you may need to add things to it as necessary.

People you should probably get in touch with:

  • Ask the professor you are assisting what he or she would like you to cover in the first discussion session.
  • Get in touch with a former TA who taught this discussion session. Ask him or her about the issues that he/she faced and how to address them.
  • If there are other TAs who teach other discussion sessions for the same class, you should get their contact information.
  • If the discussion is held in a Distance Education Network (DEN) studio in Oline Hall, contact DEN to learn about their training for the instructors using their facilities for the first time. You can find more information about this at DEN's faculty resource page.
  • Contact the facilities office of your building or department regarding audio-visual equipment. Ask what is in your room, what needs to be requested, what is available and what are the procedures.


  • Make sure you have access to the building and the room where the discussion session is held. Also, if there is any instructor cabinet or equipment that you might need to access during the course of the semester, make sure you have access to it. Access to most buildings on campus is restricted during weekend and off-hours. If you need access to the building outside of those hours, make sure you know whom to contact.
  • If you need to use the room outside of regular business hours (9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday) for exam reviews, etc., you should check that the building/floor on which the lab is located is accessible.

Presentation Equipment:

  • Learn how to operate presentation equipment, if any, and whom to contact if the equipment doesn’t work.
  • Learn how to operate lighting, air-conditioning/heating, and any other environmental controls. Find out whom to contact in case there is a problem.
  • If you need to use a computer available in the lecture room, make sure it has the software you need and you have the password needed to log in to the machine.

Administrative Policies

  • Find out how many students are registered for this discussion session
  • Find out from your professor what attendance policy he or she would prefer you to enforce for the discussion session.


  • Get guidance from the instructor about the contents of the discussion. Does he/she want you to do a review of the material covered in class, expand upon the class lecture with media clips, teach material not covered in class, administer labs, review for exams, prepare for papers, and/or go over homework problems?
  • Prepare a semester plan for the discussion.
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